Beneath a Scarlet Sky: A Novel Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Soon to be a major television event from Pascal Pictures, starring Tom Holland.
Based on the true story of a forgotten hero, the USA Today and #1 Amazon Charts bestseller Beneath a Scarlet Sky is the triumphant, epic tale of one young man’s incredible courage and resilience during one of history’s darkest hours.
Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager - obsessed with music, food, and girls - but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow six years his senior.
In an attempt to protect him, Pino’s parents force him to enlist as a German soldier - a move they think will keep him out of combat. But after Pino is injured, he is recruited at the tender age of eighteen to become the personal driver for Adolf Hitler’s left hand in Italy, General Hans Leyers, one of the Third Reich’s most mysterious and powerful commanders.
Now, with the opportunity to spy for the Allies inside the German High Command, Pino endures the horrors of the war and the Nazi occupation by fighting in secret, his courage bolstered by his love for Anna and for the life he dreams they will one day share.
Fans of All the Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale, and Unbroken will enjoy this riveting saga of history, suspense, and love.
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|Listening Length||17 hours and 43 minutes|
|Audible.in Release Date||01 May 2017|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #9,287 in Audible Audiobooks & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Audiobooks & Originals) |
#15 in World War II Historical Fiction
#15 in Biographical Fiction
#435 in Literary Fiction
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Top reviews from India
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Very broadly – the story is about a young Italian teenage boy Pino, who lives a carefree life of privilege and comfort in the 1940s with his wealthy parents in Milan. Italy is occupied by the Nazis, but for the young boy, war is not something that disturbs his daily life of fun and revelry with his friends. But not for long. His family home is destroyed by a bomb, and Pino’s parents send him off to a convent high up in the Italian Alps, where they feel he will be “safe”. Ironically, in the convent, Father Re enlists Pino’s help to smuggle Jews to safety, to neutral Switzerland, a task fraught with heart-stopping risk for an Italian citizen. The description of how Pino helps a large number of Jews to escape, how he takes them through the icy mountain range, the close shaves that he has – it makes for very engrossing reading.
When Pino turns 18, his parents advise him to join the German army, again to protect him, to keep him “safe”. Pino is forced to wear the Nazi swastika armband which he naturally hates. He is injured, and is given the role General Leyers driver. The General is one of the Fuhrer’s closest lieutenants, and in the role of his driver, Pino is able to spy for the Allies.
War, they say, brings out the best and the worst in people. It brought out the finest in Pino. The terrifying risks that he takes to protect the Jews, to spy for the Allies, to help his friends, these are risks that only the very brave take – or the extremely young.
There are several historical figures and events described in the book, and one can only imagine the painstaking research and work put in by the author. There are many scenes and events from the book which will remain with me for a long time – the meetings with the Il Duce (Mussolini) ; the heartless shooting of partisans in public, the telephone call which General Leyers had with Hitler; little hands of children poking out of van going to Auschwitz; General Leyers witnessing Pino feeding water to severely dehydrated Jews (I almost had a heart attack at this point)– he should have probably been executed for this, but he was not; the list goes on. The most shocking part of the book (in my view) is towards the end, when the war is over, and in-fighting starts amongst the Italians.
This is not to say that the book is perfect. It has its flaws, chief amongst it being that it is excruciatingly long in some parts – especially the portions where Pino guides the Jews across the Alps (it could have been cut down by several pages), and when he drives general Leyers to safety (towards the end of the book)…it went on and on, and sorry I was NOT involved after a point of time. Second – and I hope I am not being dense, I still cannot fathom the real identity of General Leyers. Am I missing something here? Many readers feel that the events described in Pino’s life seem to be exaggerated and perhaps made up in parts? To this I say – remember, it’s broadly based on Pino’s life – surely Sullivan has artistic licence to relate it the way he wants? If even 10% of it is true, I still say – WHAT a life Pino lead!
They say that the book is being made into a movie… I can only imagine what an EPIC movie it would make. I can see Pino skiing across the icy Alps on the large screen, Pino driving Leyers to safety with the Allied fighter plane targeting them, the romantic scenes between Pino and his lady love, all to the thundering strains of “Nessun Dorma”in the background – none shall sleep tonight. Wow, WHAT a movie it would be!
I give the book 4 stars out of 5 (I still can’t believe that I purchased it for just nine rupees on Amazon!).
Conclusion : the book is not a literary masterpiece, but it relates a very engrossing story, which will definitely broaden your perspective of WW-II. Take my word for it – read it before the movie wins several Oscar awards! (I wonder which actor would play Pino Lella….).
By Mahima Sharma on 6 July 2020
Top reviews from other countries
I hadn't, until I read this book, taken too much interest in the Italian experience of World War II. To my shame, I had assumed that they had pretty much as a nation fallen in with the Nazis. How wrong that thinking is. I read Scarlet Sky whilst on a break in Krakow, Poland - and I learned simultaneously about these countries' experiences under Hitler's control. I learned from both that measured "compliance" can be far more effective than blind and instinctive resistance.
The desperate problem - as we learn in this book - comes at the end of the conflict when euphoria coupled with intense anger and the desire to punish collaborators spills out during the period of anarchy before order is restored. Nobody knows who has actually worked for the enemy and who has risked their lives to defeat the enemy from within. The injustice of the summary executions - Italian on Italian - is for me the most distressing aspect of this book. It is shocking to see how normal people can change to wild blood-thirsty avengers, looking for the blood of anyone who just might have collaborated - and, of course, many of those murdered suspects were innocent.
This story excellently describes the transition of a 17 year-old boy living with his well-off family in Milan from innocent teenager to alpha male in a matter of months. From using his mountaineering skills to help Jews to escape from Italy to finding himself in the presence of Mussolini himself, Pino Lella becomes a true hero - albeit a flawed hero tormented by guilt and traumatised by his experiences.
So well-written, so moving, so shocking, so educating, so thought-provoking. I am so pleased I learned of this man's life. He richly deserves to have his experiences recorded for posterity.
First, let me say that regardless of how much of this is actually true (and I have my doubts), this fictionalized version of Pino Lella is so unrealistic. Essentially, he's a seventeen-year-old prodigy who can do no wrong. He is strong, clever, exceptionally skilled at pretty much anything he attempts, and he doesn't seem to have any real conflict with or animosity toward anyone (well, except the Nazis). He is quite possibly one of the most unrelatable characters that I've ever come across in a literary work. Just as ONE example, here is a future race car driver complimenting Pino on what a gifted driver he is, because of course he is:
"Pino allowed a mild smile. “You catch on fast. I wish I could have finished my driving lessons.” “You are already very, very good, Pino,” Ascari said. “You have the touch, the feel for the car that is rare.” Pino basked in the praise." p. 163 (Kindle edition)
Since all the attention is given to Pino and his amazing accomplishments, the supporting characters are extremely bland and indistinguishable. The only thing I really knew about each character was if they were "good" or "bad" (and this was primarily based on whether or not they were German).
Second, I was surprised by the simplicity of the writing. At times, the text reads like a middle-grade textbook as it lists off names, facts, and dates. The dialogues felt very stilted and occasionally only consisted of a couple of lines before ending abruptly. If it was going to be so concise, did there really need to be a dialogue at all?
While I normally get frustrated with authors who insist on including excessively detailed descriptions of the characters and their surroundings, this book had almost none. This made it hard for me to immerse myself in 1940s Italy. At first, I assumed that perhaps this author just doesn't care to spend a lot of time on superfluous descriptions. However, the passages about Pino hiking went on and on FOREVER! Here were the descriptions I wanted back when I was first introduced to the characters in Milan, but now they were unnecessarily lengthy and only focused on a single character and his "treacherous" hikes through the Alps.
Third, precious little in this book actually feels plausible or authentic. There are so many instances of characters (especially Pino) who just happen to be in the right place at the right time. The moment where this novel lost ALL credibility was when Pino, after almost single-handedly digging out from an avalanche, goes skiing with a pregnant woman clutching onto his back. This woman, who had been spotting blood only moments before and felt so weak she couldn't go on, lets out a "Wheeeeeeee" as they race downhill and then plays her violin for him after they reach safety. Ummmm, no. I've read historical fiction with completely fabricated characters and situations that have felt less fictional than this.
It grieves me so much - especially considering this is based upon real heroes - but I can neither continue this nor recommend it to others. If you've read it and know that it gets better, let me know and I may give it another shot. But for now, I'm done.
The story itself is one of huge courage against the background of horrific actions by the German forces that had taken over Italy and also by the partisans resisting them. This should have been a brilliant book. Unfortunately, the way it is told lets the story down. There are some longueurs, where the author dwells at too much length on fairly mundane domestic and other happenings. The portrayal of Pino’s thoughts and feelings is simplistic, and in places repetitive. The style smacks of the jejune, like something out of The Boys’ Own Paper.
This is a great pity. Despite the weaknesses of the telling, though, the book is worth reading: Pino was someone whose heroism was never recognised - and for decades he tried to put all these events behind him; and many of us know too little about what life was like in Northern Italy as WW2 drew towards a close.
I loved this i stayed awake until the wee hours of the morning not able to put it down it was sleep that took me away from the most seductive account of events that I have read. Every bit as good as pappillion which was my favorite book of all time and now I have two. I will never forget all the hard work you went into writing this and will be forever a better person for reading this. I feel truly blessed to of shared this story with loved in my heart and a teari thank you Mark Sullivan
If you can believe in an 18 year-old fluent in French and English as well as Italian, an expert climber, a skilled mechanic high speed driver and, oh yes, a sp, then this is fo you. Otherwise, stay clear.