Reviewed by Gerard Hall
Beneath a Scarlet Sky
by Mark Sullivan
Lake Union Pr
ISBN-13: 978-1503943377, May 2017
Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan is about the way that war can affect people in various ways. Sullivan shows the tragedy of war, and how it can change the way that a person sees life. He does this well by showing how the main character, Pino is changed throughout. He describes what Pino was like before World War II, and how he changed in the novel throughout to become a different kind of person:
You know, my young friend, I will be ninety years old next year, and life is still a constant surprise to me. We never know what will happen next, what we will see, and what important person will come into our life, or what important person we will lose. Life is change, constant change, and unless we are lucky enough to find comedy in it, change is nearly always a drama, if not a tragedy. But after everything, and even when the skies turn scarlet and threatening, I still believe that if we are lucky enough to be alive, we must give thanks for the miracle of every moment of every day, no matter how flawed.
One thing that Sullivan did well throughout the novel was that he showed the way that Pino was changed by seeing World War II. Pino is from Italy. He spies for the Allies by becoming a personal driver for Germany. While he does this, he meets a girl named Anna who he falls in love with. Whenever he thinks of her and he can “limit his spiraling memories to Anna, he feels soothed” (Sullivan 222). Pino worries about the different aspects of war that are going on in his life. What would happen if he is caught spying? What will happen to his family? However, when he thinks of Anna, he becomes calmer, and he can just focus on her. This changes from the beginning of the story where Pino walks around the town of Milan and goes around looking for a woman to love. Pino changes because during the war, he realizes how important it is to have love, and what that means. Before the war, Pino is a boy who becomes attracted to any pretty girl he sees. He likes the idea of love, but he does not know what it means.
Another way that Pino changes in the novel is that he realizes how important his family and friends are. Sullivan does this by depicting Pino not wanting to go to Casa Alpina while the war is going on. Casa Alpina is a lodge that Pino stays at to get away from the chaos and destruction that is happening in Milan. He does not want to go because he thinks it is childish and he wants to stay with his family in Milan. However, he realizes how important of a role he plays there because he helps send Jews from Casa Alpina to Switzerland to get away from the Germans and Nazis. By helping in this way, he is fighting back against the Nazis, and he is “part of the growing resistance” (Sullivan 160). He becomes glad that he is helping, and Pino is glad that he can make a difference. Through this experience, he learns a lot from the priest at Casa Alpina, Father Re, who teaches him about having faith and trusting in God. This helps him later on when he is involved more heavily in the war and he struggles with his faith.
I think one thing that Sullivan can improve on with the novel is making sure that there is enough conflict throughout to keep the reader interested. While the whole idea of war and love has plenty of conflict, there were points in which it seemed that everything was going perfectly for Pino, and there were no struggles. There is one point in the novel when Pino says, “the Nazis are trapped” (Sullivan 374). It is becoming the turning point in the war where the Allies and Italy are winning and are going to beat Germany. While this is great, there are still over one-hundred pages left in the book and there are no other pressing conflicts that can keep the reader interested. It can become easy for the reader to drop the book and not come back to it, because they will think that they know what the rest of the book will be about.
However, Sullivan makes up for this by providing a surprise toward the end that keeps the reader interested. It’s a nice surprise because it ends the story in a way that is satisfying, yet realistic. I think it helps the reader see the effects that war can have on people, and how it can change them. Overall, this book is interesting because it gives a new perspective on war from a boy who has never been involved in it. Also, because it is from the perspective of someone who is from a foreign country, the reader can understand what World War II was like for that country and how it affected them. I was personally intrigued by the character Pino because of the hope that he held throughout the whole war. Even though things around him were falling apart, and it seemed like nothing was going right, Pino still had faith that everything would be ok. I find this inspirational for myself because it is a good example of how I should live my own life. Even when I don’t know what is going on in my life, I should still have hope that everything will be alright, and that I will make it through.