In Sicily, 1935 a four-year child walks away from her loving family, her mother, her sister and an infant brother, with a great-aunt for a vacation.
She spends the next eight years of her life absent from their lives. It was not abduction nor was it an adoption. Tina lives in a one-room house in one of the poorest regions of Sicily. She sleeps between a loving aunt and a deranged uncle. She shares her breakfast with goats and chickens while living in the shadow of fascism. The child grows up while WW II ravages the town. Her school is taken over by the Germans and the things like bread and eggs that were once plentiful, no longer exist. Less than 25 kilometers away her family
leads a very different life. After eight years, she returns home to find her childhood interrupted again. This time sickness, warfare and destruction are her enemies. In wartime Europe, childhood does not exist. The child witnesses and experiences many disturbing things from her uncouth, unsanitary living conditions to the failed paratroopers dangling from trees during the allied invasion.
Tina is a survivor. She is able to forgive those who took so much away from her. Her spirit trumps over adversity during the war times within and around her. As she grows older,
she struggles to keep the harsh realities of World War II and abandonment at a distance through her sense of humor, imagination and determination.
By the age of 15, her fate is sealed, again, without her permission. To gain passage to America she must accept the role as a war bride. A tyrannical, overbearing, bootlegging aunt in America arranges the match. Tina must live under her roof and her rules until her citizenship is secure.
This is a debut novel from this Author, and one that I had particular interest in reading, as my Husband’s family are from this part of the world.
As I started into the book,, I was expecting a novel of great proportions, given the subject matter, but in this area I felt the book did not deliver. Instead of being the story I expected, it read more like a social history/personal account of the period covered, and how conditions were living under Mussolini. This in itself, led to a very interesting book, as there are not many out there that let us glimpse life in WWII from an Italian perspective.
Because of it’s not being a novel, in the true sense of the word, I felt that the lack of any character development did not deter from the book at all. In fact, it made it easier to read from an objective point of view and, as a historical scholar, I found it would have been a great resource when doing my thesis on WWII.
The dialogue can be a little jumbled at times, with the Author writing both Italian and English in the same sentence, with no punctuation to separate the two. This brings me onto my next observation; the over use of full stops (periods). They are used so abundantly throughout this book that, at times, I felt the Author was barking random phrases at me, rather than telling me about the poverty and conditions these people lived through. I feel that with the use of commas and semi-colons the novel would have flowed much more smoothly and added coherence to some, otherwise, jumbled areas.
The description of Sicily itself is fantastic and, having been there many times, the Author fully captured the vivid scenery to be found on the tiny island. This played a huge part of making this read a lot more enjoyable than it otherwise might have been.
I understand this is the Authors first novel, and I feel with a little more attention to punctuation and character development, her next one if she writes in this genre again, would be a great improvement.
Regardless of my feelings on this novel, I would recommend it to YA and adults alike that are interested in this period of history from the common man point of view.