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Set in Italy during the last two years of the second World War, this story follows the life of a remarkable young man, Pino Lella, who finds himself assigned as the driver of one of the most powerful Nazi officials in Italy. He accompanies this General throughout northern Italy as the war deteriorates and comes to a violent and tragic end.

The scenes of brutality on all sides are shocking and depressing, not only on the part of the Nazis towards their captives and slaves, but also on the part of Italians who at the end of the war let their anger erupt against the dictator Mussolini and others. There are many scenes of heroism and bravery as well, and the story of Lella makes it all very personal throughout. His own tragedies are particularly painful and sad as the war ends.

This is an extraordinary life in all respects, not only his wartime accomplishments but his life afterwards which is recounted at the end of the novel. His encounters with various famous people throughout his life are fascinating.

A very worthwhile story that author Mark Sullivan was lucky enough to learn of, then putting several years of research into piecing together as many of the details as he could. He presents it as a biographical / historical novel but inasmuch as it is based upon the true story of Pino Lella I take it as fundamentally a true story. Remarkable to read, both sad and inspiring.

Photos attached (left to right):

1. Father Re and Barbareschi
2. Pino with author Mark Sullivan in 2006
3. Pino on Lake Orta, looking north, 2006
4. Pino at book signing in Stresa, Italy, June 15, 2017
5. Pino at age 17
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183 people found this helpful
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A Kindle First selection that is masterfully written with complex characters and heart-pounding scenes. It takes place in Italy -'the forgotten front'- during WW II and the reader is drawn into a web of intrigue. Pino Lello, 17 years of age, is wise beyond his years and intelligent, as well. It is a gripping story of resilience, the indomitable spirit of a young man that knew no boundaries and courage that sustained him during dark hours.

When reading the first portion, I was wondering if (and how) this intense pace would continue. The climbing scenes through the mountains gave me a real shot of adrenaline. I felt as though I was one of the climbers and not a reader. This is also when the echoes of 'Nessun Dorma' were played with such passion. For me, this is one of the underlying themes in the story - 'none shall sleep'. And, Pino Lello has taken that to heart for the remainder of this story.

The action intensified throughout the remainder of the book, and one is allowed a rare glimpse into the mind of Il Duce - Benito Mussolini - plus the inner workings of the German High Command. Becoming a driver for Major General Hans Leyer allows Pino access to a man that is two steps from the Fuhrer. Pino Lello witnesses atrocities he wishes he could forget but keeps soldiering on...wisely...

Just a gripping and harrowing Kindle First selection which I feel is the best one I have read. Full of action and suspense which will keep you on the edge of your seat for the duration.

Most highly recommended.

Please note that this is my Kindle First selection for April 2017.
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on April 1, 2017
I've read nearly every word Mark Sullivan has ever published - so I can say with authority that this work, Beneath a Scarlet Sky, stands as the ultimate fusion of his Pulitzer-nominated journalistic skills and his mastery of the thriller genre, which he's honed at the keyboard he sometimes shares with James Patterson. He takes us deep inside the love story of his discovery, the unknown hero, Pino Lella, and he crafts an epic tale set against the backdrop of Nazi-occupied Milan and the Italian Alps during World War II that is as intimate and tragic as it is thought-provoking and triumphant. Every page, every step crackles. Each twist, rooted in years of first-class reporting, shocks you anew. Through Sullivan's gripping cast of characters, the unreality and brutality of war meets its match in the guts and wits and soul of Pino Lella, his family, his friends and cohorts. This heretofore untold story has been etched in my heart and mind with a telling that is equally cinematic and literary. With this, perhaps his masterwork, Sullivan has reached a pinnacle in storytelling - and readers everywhere, like me, will be better for living it through his words. Of course, it is Pino Lella we must also praise and thank - for what he did with his young life, his uncommon bravery, his story and letting Sullivan share it with us. I wish I could read it again for the first time.
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on April 2, 2017
I cannot add more to the excellent reviews previously posted other than to say I read this book in one sitting not being able to put it down until 4:00 AM! It gripped me emotionally and I'm still thinking about it the next day. Rarely does even a good book have the depth and character development than this one did. I will be looking for more from this amazing author!
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on September 10, 2017
I love historical fiction. I have been reading a lot of WWII historical books lately. I was not really wanting to read 'another' one. But, we were traveling to Milan, and this true story took place in Milan. So, I bought it, and started reading it a few days before the trip. Once we were in our hotel on the street Corso Matteotti, I was amazed to find out that Pino Lella grew up in that area and at onetime lived on that very street! A very well written book. A very amazing life Pino lived. I did not know that Milan was affected so much by WWII. I definitely recommend it. Pictures are of the church San Bbila - the neighborhood where Pino grew up, and of where his parent's purse shop and his uncle's leather shop used to be.
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on June 13, 2017
The plot is based on the events happening to Pino Lella, an eighteen years old Milanese boy, in between 1943 to 1945, during the nazy occupation of northern Italy. The first part of the book is fully credible, as Pino, his brother Mimo and 40 other young boys are sent by his parents to Casa Alpina, a Catholic retreat and school at the foot of the Italians alps, to scape the allied bombing of Milan. The Catholic church has set an escape route into Switzerland, around The Groppera peak, to smuggle Jews, refugees and down allied pilots out of the Nazi's hands. During the course of several months in 1943, Pino leads a score of people into Switzerland, risking his life to do it. But he's turning eighteen, and subject to the mandatory draft, and his parents have devised a scheme to prevent him from being sent to the Russian front. He enrolls Organization Todt, a Nazi Corp in charge of building infrastructure. And here is where an endless string of coincidences start happening to Pino, beginning with his chance encounter with General Leyers, the second most powerful Nazi on Italy. Pino becomes Leyers' driver, and through his eyes, we learn about all the Nazi atrocities and the allied advances to liberate northern Italy. No question the first part of the book must be true, but so many coincidences happen to Pino, several on a single day on various occasions, that is hard to believe all the rest of the story really happened the way is told by the author. The book is worth reading and it is in kindle unlimited.
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on September 18, 2017
One of the most interesting books I've ever read and I have read dozens if not hundreds. This book was both hard to put down and hard to read too much at a time-both for the same reason-it was so breathtakingly good! This is one of those rare stories I hope everyone reads and wish everyone had to. It's intriguing, entertaining and puts you right there. My tummy was tight with fear, I laughed out loud and I hated what the Greman Nazi's did to Italy and especially to its people. I had heard before that Italy saved more of it's Jewish population than any other country in Europe and I was glad to be reminded of that. They deserve to be recognized for their humanity and bravery. This story was extremely unique in its view of WWII and the German invasion. I will read it again, it was that good. Please read this book yourself. It's not gory but intellectually manages to still give you a real look at that time and place-something we all should never forget. I highly recommend this book to all!!! :)

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on October 9, 2017
This story takes place in Italy during the last two years of WWII. It's a well-written historical fiction based on a real-life 17 year old hero, whose story until now, was largely unknown.

Pino Lella was only 17 in 1943 when he began leading Jews over the Alps to safety in Switzerland. He went on to become a spy for the Partisan Resistance Movement in Italy while serving as the driver for a top Major General in Hitler's High Command. Pino risked his life repeatedly, gathering information for the Resistance and Allied forces until the war ended.

While this book is historical fiction, it is based on in-person interviews the author Mark Sullivan had with then 79 year old Pino Lella, as well as other extensive research he did over a ten year period. (Pino Lella is still living in Italy, and in his nineties.) Originally Sullivan planned on writing a nonfiction biography of Pino, but the Nazis so thoroughly destroyed their files in the last days before surrendering to the Allied forces, making a complete and accurate story virtually impossible. Sullivan felt Pino's story was so compelling, he decided to write it in a fictional format for posterity rather than not write it at all.

This truly is a compelling story. It's the story about the war, but one we haven't heard before. It's about the atrocities, but also about heroism and bravery. And there's a poignant love story that should touch even the most stoic among us. The writing is very straightforward. It doesn't go back and forth in time, and it doesn't switch from one character's p.o.v. to another's. It's the story from Pino's eyes, told vividly and simply.

I think it's definitely worthy of 4.5 stars.
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on January 20, 2018
I have heard and read stories from the aftermath or World War II. My father was at the push to liberate France. What the young man in this story accomplished in that war, his bravery, pain, and his silence for so many years will stay with me forever.

The author of this book did me a favor in describing the true heroes of the that war few will ever know about. My father maintained silence for decades as did many other veterans because of the atrocities. This book is a call to all of us here and now to truly appreciate the freedoms we have because of so many who gave everything they had to end that war. An amazing story recounted by a truly gifted author.
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on November 19, 2017
Masterful tale of a young man’s courageous struggle to fight for the greater good during the Nazi occupation of Milan during World War II.

Although a work of fiction this novel is based on a true story with a real hero. At the heart of the story is a normal seventeen-year-old Italian boy named Pino Lella. He is obsessed with music, finding a girl, and falling in love. But then in 1943, the bombs start dropping on Milan and his family home is destroyed. His parents send him to a camp in the mountains to escape the bombardment and the occupation. While in the mountains he guides Jewish refugees across rugged terrain to the Swiss border. When he returns to Milan his parents surprisingly insist that he voluntarily join the German army in order to avoid the draft and having to fight on the front lines. Pino’s role in the army as a driver for a high ranking German general, allows him to witness significant events during the war. Pino uses these opportunities to spy for the partisans until the war ends in 1945.

This is an unforgettable, authentic story of courage, love and forgiveness. Mark Sullivan’s amazing writing transports us to Milan in 1943 where he has captured the fear and anguish of the turbulent times. This epic novel is steeped in personal accounts of events, and as a result the details, dialogs and emotions are mesmerizing. Sullivan’s opportunity to interview the seventy-year old Pino Lella allowed Pino’s character in the book to come to life. Beneath A Scarlet Sky is full of ups and downs, trials and triumphs and love and heartbreak. I highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates historical fiction. This is one of my very favorite books of 2017.
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