Before we get into this month’s book club discussion, I have some house cleaning notes. Probably no one even noticed or cares, but this but up until this post, I was titling my book club posts based on the upcoming book rather than the book the post was discussing. I realized as I was putting this one together that that format didn’t make much sense so I switched it up. I went back and changed out the titles and images for my last three book club posts, and sorry this photo is a repeat but since it’s a discussion about Beneath a Scarlet Sky, I want the imagery to represent that.
Ok now that the boring stuff is out of the way, let’s get into the juicy details of last month’s book…
Discussion of Beneath a Scarlet Sky
Pino: I have to start by saying that I loved the main character, Pino Lella, so so much. In my eyes he was a true hero at a very young age, doing and seeing things that no teenager should have to do or see. The fact that he was able to put himself in danger and be smart about his role in the war when all he really wanted in life was to be a regular kid, was hard to believe. Because of his incredible strength and moral character, it was easy to forget that Pino is, in fact, a real man and these events did, in fact, really happen.
The fact that he met with Mussolini on his first day was mind-blowing! If it wasn’t a true story I would have guffawed at that storyline.
Mark Sullivan did an incredible job of telling the story from Pino’s perspective. I could almost hear him telling Sullivan some of the stories that made it to the pages. Specific details like the smell of the bombs and of death, and the very poignant image of the child’s hand in the cattle car touched me on a deep level because I knew they were from Pino’s memory.
I loved that the author included a real conversation with Pino as an afterward to the story. I think this quote really showcases his outlook on life, despite living through his personal hell:
“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.”
Another conversation I loved, that I can only assume was taken word for word was;
Pino: “How do you find happiness?”
Anna: “You start by looking right around you for the blessings you have. When you find them, be grateful.”
Despite living in a war, Anna can find happiness in the blessings she is still living for. I thought that was a really beautiful sentiment.
General Leyers: He was clearly an evil evil man, but I found it interesting to read about General Leyers because at some points I thought he might actually have some good in his heart. In the end, I realized that any good deed was for his own benefit and he was truly a piece of garbage, but I really felt like I could see him through Pino’s eyes.
I think that Sullivan wanted to portray that despite how awful he was, General Leyers was human too. He also showed this in Colonol Rauff, when he told the story of herding the cows. I’m assuming he did this on purpose to show how Pino, as a boy, must have been confused by these people and how they could do the horrifying things that they did.
Italy: I’ve read a lot of WWII novels, yet none of them are based in Italy. Heck, most of them don’t even mention Italy. It was interesting to learn about the devastation there, as I think it often gets forgotten in the stories we read. I’m Italian and lived in Italy for two years, so it felt even more personal to learn about some of the terrors that plagued the country that I hadn’t read about before.
The Ending: I did not see Anna’s death coming in that way. I thought she might never be heard from again, but I wasn’t expecting such a public and dramatic murder in front of the love of her life. I was almost too shocked to even cry at this part of the story. On that note, what made me cry the hardest was the child’s hand on the train. The image obviously stuck with Pino years later, and I can see why.
Overall, I really loved Beneath a Scarlet Sky. The author did a wonderful job of telling a story with as much truth as possible but also making this book a page-turner. I couldn’t put it down! Sometimes I felt like he was just writing Pino’s words but I didn’t hate that. It felt more authentic, in fact.
What did you think of the book? Comment below to let me know!
March Book Club: Bad Blood
I cannot tell you how many people have recommended Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Start Up to me, and I’m starting to see why from the press alone. It was named one of the best books of the year by NPR, The NY Times Book Review, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. And the (true) story of the rise and fall of Theranos is also the subject of the upcoming HBO documentary, The Inventor.
Watching the preview, I got major Fyre Festival documentary vibes, and I can’t wait to watch it. Not only that, but the book is being made into a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence, so I thought it was high time to jump on this train.
I’ve been reading about Theranos in the news like everyone else, but I am still not super familiar with the details of the story beyond knowing that Elizabeth Holmes lied through her teeth about her blood-testing technology that was supposed to change the world. I cannot wait to dig into this book and get all of the juice. I’m so intrigued! Sociopaths are fascinating, and to see a woman my age who could be my peer acting like this is terrifying.
I think this is going to be a quick read, so I want to up the ante and encourage everyone to watch the documentary after you read the book so we can all discuss it on April 2nd. Who’s in?