The Sky Is Red
by Giuseppe Berto. Translated by Julia Purdy

"And even Giulia became like him, with a heaviness inside and a great sorrow, because loving served no purpose, if life was always sad."

Set in a small European city ravaged by the destruction of WWII, this novel follows the lives of a group of young people trying to survive. Devastated by bombings, the city has little to offer anyone. Those doing their best to stay alive have to find their own ways to get by. The charismatic and resourceful Tullio holds the group together and steals what he must to feed the others. Giulia does her best to make their hideout in the rubble resemble a home, while Carla helps bring in necessities working as a prostitute. Daniele left the priests and his school and does not want to be a burden on the others. He carries a lot of guilt about not doing his share. Together, the group takes care of Maria, a child who shows signs of shellshock.

Berto's novel is expertly translated by Purdy and is easy to read. The few grammatical errors do not hinder the reader's enjoyment of the book. The writing flows well, adhering to a sparse style reminiscent of Hemingway with adjectives and longer, descriptive sentences used sparingly and to great effect. Faced with such a harsh environment, it is easy to forget how young these characters are and how much they have already lost. Each time the reader is reminded of this, it gives the characters' plight even more force. This story is moving, impactful, and finely written. Readers will undoubtedly feel its emotional impact and carry the story with them long after reading the last words.

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