"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 ...
"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."
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Pino Lella is a typical Italian teenager...he enjoys his friends, girls, music....what all young people enjoy. Then Milan is bombed by the Allies, and World War II tears his world apart. Pino leaves Milan and joins a group that helps guide Jews over the Alps to safety in Switzerland. As he nears his 18th birthday, his parents push him to join the German Army to prevent his being sent to the Russian front with the Italian forces. Pino joins the German army, but he isn't a Nazi.....he is acting as a spy, passing information on to the Allies. As he drives a German general all over Italy, he is gathering intel to help the Allies win the war. He sees so many atrocities -- Jews being worked to death, cattle cars filled with people being sent to concentration camps, people shot in the streets..... Pino Lella was a forgotten hero of WWII and his remarkable story is finally being told.
I enjoyed this book. I listened to the audiobook version. The descriptions of what Pino Lella saw and experienced during the war in Italy was very emotional for me. I can't even imagine experiencing so much violence, death and fear.
I loved most of the story. But, at times, the book rambled on a bit too long and got more than a little melodramatic, especially regarding Pino's girlfriend. When I got to the end of the story, it made more sense why Anna was mentioned all the time and the effect she had on his entire life. But.....for most of the book I was rolling my eyes when he went on and on about her beauty, their love, etc. I suppose it really is what an 18 year old in love for the first time would say and do...... but, for me, it really slowed down the plot development in regards to Pino's spying and the war a bit too much. And the long descriptions of how she looked, smelled, talked......it got old by the end of the story. I was also just a little bit incredulous that Pino could actually have done all of the things credited to him. He just seems a little bit overdone....too "larger than life.'' I'm not saying that I don't believe Sullivan's research....I just think things might be just a bit exaggerated in places. In my opinion, at times the writing style comes off as a bit juvenile.....melodramatic, over-simplified and exaggerated...and that has an effect on the impact of the story.
All in all, despite a few little things here and there, I enjoyed this book. I had never really read anything about the situation in Italy and what happened there once Germany surrendered. The audiobook is narrated by Will Damron. He read at a nice, even pace. I have hearing loss but was still able to easily hear and understand everything. The audiobook version is just under 18 hours long. It kept my attention except in a few spots where it focused on his love life a bit too long.
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