Book Club: Beneath a Scarlet Sky

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…

Blanket / Mirror (on sale) / Chair

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?

Don’t forget to join the Lemon Stripes Book Club Facebook groupPhoto by Julia Dags.

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  1. LynetteK said:

    I loved this book! There were parts I needed to take a break from reading because these stories were someone’s real memories. It was written so well to convey that. Great book! Looking forward to the next one!

    3.13.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      It was very intense but somehow I still couldn’t put it down. I would be sitting there sobbing but couldn’t stop… Not sure what that says about me haha

      3.13.19 · Reply
  2. Britta said:

    I really did enjoy this book is well! But for me it wasn’t as impactful as a nightingale and lilac girls and other World War II books I have read. I am a bit embarrassed to say I think it’s because of this main character was a man in this book! I think as a woman as a mom I related better to the female leads dealing with their children. I remember being so distraught in nightingale when Sarah dies in her mothers arms after being shot and I was a blubbering mess reading lilac girls when the Polish teacher’s little too year-old is ripped from her arms at the camp and never seen again. Those scenes I vividly remember reading (granted I was pregnant and the postpartum reading them so heightened emotions much!)and I didn’t get that in a particular scene in this book. A great and insightful read for me in a way I didn’t except and it made me check and evaluate my own reactions which is always a great thing in a book!

    3.13.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Interesting! I didn’t feel that way but it makes a lot of sense that you would relate to the female characters more powerfully. Out of all the WWII books I’ve read, I cried the hardest when the baby is ripped from her mom’s arms at the camp. Probably because the child was Amalia’s age and I couldn’t imagine living through something that horrifying.

      3.13.19 · Reply
  3. Viola said:

    I really enjoyed this book and it was a great learning experience as I didn’t know how Italy was affected by the war. Great pick!

    3.13.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      So glad you liked it, Viola!

      3.13.19 · Reply
  4. Megan said:

    Loved the book as well. I haven’t read too many novels in the WWII genre, but this was a great introduction. I had to keep reminding myself that this was a true story and that these events actually did happen. I found it a little frustrating that we didn’t get to know what General Leyes traded for his freedom or how he knew Pino was the “Observer”, but that’s the point of the story since Pino never knew as well. Overall, thank you very much for putting together this book club 🙂

    3.13.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      That was super frustrating. I was hoping that someone who was tied to the story would read it and come out with more details. Apparently, they’re making it into a movie so that might be even more likely! So glad you’re part of the club 🙂

      3.13.19 · Reply
  5. Susan said:

    This was truly one of my favorite books of all time. In fact, I’m scheduled to lead my book club’s discussion of it and really look forward to it. Because this took place so early in Pino’s life, he could not recall every detail and there is an element of fiction mixed in with the facts. Sullivan mentioned that. I wonder how much license he took to fill in gaps in Pino’s memory. It’s by no means a criticism of the book, just something I wonder about.
    I too, read a lot of historical fiction, WW II being my favorite period, as devastating as these books are to read, but this account, based on a real person, definitely moved me the most.

    3.13.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Wow, amazing! It really was fantastic. I also wondered the same thing about how much creative license he took with the story. But there were certain scenes and details that I somehow just knew to be true in my gut.

      3.13.19 · Reply
  6. talia said:

    I read this last year for my book club and thought it was fantastic. So much history!

    3.13.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      And history that I didn’t know about which was the best part. It was nice to learn something new!

      3.13.19 · Reply
  7. Vanessa said:

    Now that you mention it, I don’t think I’ve ever read any WWII fiction that was based in Italy either. Strange, huh? I read a lot of historical fiction and all of the WWII ones I’ve read in the past have taken place in England, France, Germany, or the US. Right now I’m reading The Huntress by Kate Quinn and so far that one hasn’t mentioned Italy either.

    3.13.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Exactly! I’ll have to try The Huntress next. Have you read Lilac Girls, The Alice Network, and The Nightingale?

      3.13.19 · Reply
  8. Mai-Ly said:

    Thank you for the recommendation of the next book for your book club! I listened to the interview for the HBO special on The Today Show with George Schultz’ grandson, but I didn’t know there was a book as well. Ordering it now. Looking forward to your review!

    Happy weekend!

    3.17.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I really want to listen to the podcast as well. There’s so much good content here, it’s hard to know where to start! But I’m 100 pages into the book and love it already.

      3.17.19 · Reply
  9. B said:

    I live in Bozeman, where the author lives, so we invited Mark to our book club and he came!
    He covered everything from his strategy to target the Amazon best seller list rather than New York Times to Pino’s family trying to block him from contacting Pino further because he was triggering his PTSD. It was so interesting! Once in a lifetime opportunity! Well hopefully not, since he has another book coming out next year!

    3.18.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      That is SO cool! I can’t believe he actually came, wow! What did he say about Pino himself? Did he end up getting PTSD?

      3.19.19 · Reply
      • B said:

        He came and was so appproachable/normal/nice. Pino has had PTSD since(undiagnosed for the majority of the time) which would be triggered by Mark coming to Italy to interview him. Mark would only have a few days at a time to visit and Pino was in his 80’s when he started so he never knew which visit may be his last. He would come with an agenda of points he wanted to cover and attempt to drag it all out of him within a few days. Not knowing anything about PTSD at the time Mark took Pino to the location where the firing squads had taken place and memorial, which Pino despite living so close, had actively avoided since. After each visit Pino would start having nightmares and not be able to sleep and stop eating so Mark had a moral dilemma whether this man had been tortured enough in his life and he should leave him alone, but he also felt it was a very important story to share. His next book is about a family who had not lived in Germany for over 100 years, but was ethnically German. They had to flee after Europe afterthe war to avoid being put in work camps that Germans were forced into, another part of WW2 history I have not yet heard .

        3.20.19 · Reply
        • Julia said:

          Wow, that is so interesting and such a moral dilemma. Obviously, I’m happy that Mark shared Pino’s important story, but I feel so bad for what Pino had to go through to get it out. Thank you so much for sharing this!

          3.20.19 · Reply