This story is based on the events in the life of Pino Lella, an eighteen-year-old Milanese boy. The storyline occurred from 1943 to 1945, during the Nazi occupation of northern Italy. The hardships that this young hero suffered began as he, his brother Mimo and 40 other young boys are sent to Casa Alpena, a Catholic retreat and school at the foot of the Italians alps. This was done so that the boys would escape the horrors of the allied bombing of Milan. The Catholic church had established an escape route into Switzerland in order to smuggle Jews, refugees and downed allied pilots away from the German occupation. Over the course of several months in 1943, Pino leads a group of people into Switzerland, risking his life to do it.
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. 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’s the story from Pino’s eyes, told vividly and simply.
Mark Sullivan did a wonderful job in bringing this little-known bit of history. He honors Pino Lella in a way that respectful and deserving. We gave this book a big 10 out of 10 stars – a must read!
————–> Beneath a Scarlet Sky <——————-