I was intrigued to learn that Lisa Scottoline was changing genres to write a historical fiction novel. After all, she is the queen of legal thrillers. Would she be able to pull this off?
The story begins in 1937 in Rome. We meet three teenagers who have been best friends since childhood. Elizabetta lives with her alcoholic father and works in a restaurant while dreaming of becoming a novelist. Her mother flew the coop early-on. Marco lives with his mother, father, and sister who own a very successful bar. And Sandro who is of brilliant mind lives in the Jewish ghetto with his well-to-do parents. Everything is about to change now that the young men realize they both have fallen in love with Elizabetta……
Scottoline begins the story before WW11 so that we see first- hand how everything takes a turn for the worst as Benito Mussolini rolls into Italy and takes the country down the wrong road. We watch in horror, knowing the outcome will not be good. Seeing the blind faith Marco and his father put in the dictator makes the story even harder to read. I kept wanting to shake them and say NO, NO. Danger.
The research for this novel is stellar. Every stone is turned. We are drawn into the bowels of hell and held captive while the Jews lose everything they have: their possessions; their jobs; family members, homes. The horrors of the camps loom. There are at least two scenes that have been taken from real events. The Nazi’s force their way into a synagogue and begin ruining precious artifacts and books; throwing them out the windows and laughing as Jews on the ground are racing around to try to save them. And then when the Nazi’s demand the community come up with 50 kilograms of gold in 36 hours or 200 of their members will be arrested. You can only imagine how that will turn out.
While Scottoline manages to administer a slow burn of hate and violence, we are kept on the edge of our seats as we watch this love triangle play out. I loved the food and the garden even through the rationing. The flowers. And the kitties. The old woman who takes Elizabetta under her wing might just be my favorite character.
Topics of morality, antisemitism, fascism and hate pepper the story from start to finish. If you are a WW11 buff, this covers areas of the war that are rarely heard of. Mussolini and Rome are featured in depth. Do not miss this one.
We have copies of ETERNAL by Lisa Scottoline at Copperfish Books right now. They are discounted 20% and ready to go. It’s a great addition for your summer reading.