by Marion Applegate
At the latest WaR meeting, members met to exchange views on the historical novel, The Cielo: A Novel of Wartime Tuscany, by Paul Salsini, an instructor at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. Marion Applegate led the discussion of this first time author. The setting of The Cielo is Tuscany during the last year of WWII. Ordered by the Germans to evacuate, a group of Italian villagers run to the hills to escape the brutality of war. These neighbors move into an abandoned farmhouse. During their stay they face betrayal by a neighbor, death for harboring an escaped prisoner, and Nazi terrorism for being Italian.
The WaR members were bursting with enthusiasm as the meeting began. Salsini’s portrait of Italian life and customs is vivid. Told in third person, the reader could understand the villagers’ lives during wartime and even comprehend but not accept the Nazi rationale of their cruelty. Participants were excited about responding to the questions about the author’s craft. Our readers enjoyed his method of integrating setting, characters, and theme while keeping the action moving.
For history buffs The Cielo is a must read. Salsini has four more novels in this series that span from WWII to the 1980s.