Top critical review
18 people found this helpful
A great idea not seen through to a believable conclusion. Definitively a Novel.
on October 15, 2017
Worth reading, but be prepared for somewhat of a confusing mix of true story and novel writing. To me that was the biggest problem, not knowing what was actually the real true story as lived by a teen named Pino and what was artistic license taken by author. He does post a warning of sorts at the opening that he used some freedom and liberties in the telling, retelling from actual events by the main character, and filling in holes with his own/writers words or interpretations.
It is a good story of events during the last two years of WWII in Italy, most of it and is focused primarily in northern Italy, Milano and surrounding areas. As such it is a very limited piece of WWII history of Italy because it reads more like a love story which happens during the last and worst two years during the war. It felt like the actual teller of this story Pino is giving us an adolescent view into that first need for the love of a woman, even though it was just a fantasy at first, and his experiences of life from the perspective of a teenager and that in his telling he left too much to the author to fill in. There are however several important characters in this story that cannot be overlooked, important to WWII history and the horrors of the Nazi and the fascists. Since the story is actually being told by a teenager it is rather difficult to accept as historical. Unfortunately one of the main and historically important characters, Genaral Leyers for one, we know very little of and that little is rather confusing and unfinished. Sullivan finished the story leaving us hanging with so many unanswered questions, which he tried to rectify with an addendum with some rather sketchy information pertaining to general Leyers. In my opinion there is not enough informaion given to finish the story. The whole story which features Leyers prominently, is such a disappointed because the truth, the history, is not being clarified. It's sort of a muddled ending leaving the reader puzzled. It would seem to me, that some good investigating should have brought the truth to the surface and given the book a believable ending. all that the top Nazis did during the war is never something just mentioned in passing. Pino and Leyers were intimately involved throughout the story, and by Pino's telling, which is the story here, General Leyers did atrocious acts and gave orders for slavery and the horrendous mistreatment of these slaves or prisoners, just to mention one atrocity. That is historically important facts but unfortunately are only touched upon in the book. General Leyers was arrested, but then under confusing circumstances is shipped across the borders of Italy, presumably into freedom of Austrian border carrying a heave briefcase which supposedly contained gold billions he had stolen. Then he suddenly is imprisoned with war criminal prison, was also handled by a court, not Nuremberg, and released after only 23 months. Nothing is told us about details of trial, records from his incarceration, why he was released at all when Pino made such a credible witness against him. Pino was his driver and translator and even allowed in the generals home to co-mingle with their maid who was his love interests. So there is supposedly plenty of witnessed horror as told in the story but nobody asked this young man about this war criminal?
My final conclusion to what I gained from this story is not so much a WWII horror story involving a Nazi war criminal, but a love story between a very young and inexperienced teen and a mature woman, which was mostly a fantasy for the boy but over the course of the story and his persistence turns into real but sweet young love during the last two years of WWII in northern Italy. During those two years we are traveling along with a very immature teen through his life experiences. Part of that experience i s his becoming the driver and translator for the Nazi General Leyers.
I guess I am most disappointed in the lack of facts, historical facts, which are not followed through to a believable conclusion. Without that conclusion all we have is a love story which isn't exactly history making, True, this love story unfolds in the middle of life during the final two years of WWII in Italy. In spite of the story touching on the atrocities committed by Nazi and Fashist factions it's still a teen love story. Anything else is simply left unfinished, unresolved and left me confused and very let down.
I still think this could be a fantastic piece of previously uncovered WWII history of great importance if only Sullivan had done more investigative work and less memoirs, had actually finished the work.
Other than that I found the writing somewhat tediously detailed, especially trying to explain locations in Italy, like trying to write a map with words. Including a map of Italy would have made it so much more visual and less wordy.