From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon is a novel of love, pain, and suffering during WWII in German-occupied Italy. Even though WWII seems far removed from the present-day world, even though it seems that nothing more can be said about this struggle, this novel manages to provide new information and a new twist on an event many of us, baby boomers, are tired of contemplating. To think that way is selfish and doesn’t acknowledge later generations have not suffered such a constant bombardment of information. If we were never to revisit some of the stories, we would forget some of the horrors described in this work. Other events in this novel may surprise those who thought they knew it all.
Sand and ash are important components in making glass bottles, such as those needed for wine. Eva’s father, lost during a rescue attempt of a brother in Austria, built an industry and established the family fortune by making bottles used by wine producers. Thinking of the two components as base elements that are products of war as well as in earlier times the foundation of a prosperous family creates interesting mental contrasts and leads to larger philosophical and moral questions appearing elsewhere in the novel.
One broad context in the novel is the romantic story of Eva and Angelo. I am no fan of romantic novels, so it is difficult for me to make a comparison and state this is superior to other romantic novels. It is interesting. The twists and turns of the romantic element itself are exhausting. I leave it to the reader to see what I mean. I would never read a novel devoted entirely to romance that strung out the romantic elements so long.
This is a novel of war with at least one element that may be unfamiliar to many. It is generally known that Italy was an ally of Germany. Italy burst on to the pages of WWII consciousness prior to the full-scale war when Italy invaded Ethiopia. Italy’s bombing of one town, Guernica, brought Italy’s growing martial intent to the attention of the world. Germany was paying attention. Germany had trained the Italians in the Blitzkrieg tactics Germany would later use so successfully. Although Italy entered the war as an ally of Germany, Hitler never held Mussolini in much esteem as an ally, even less so when Italy quit and surrendered to the Americans. That did not end the war for the Italians. Germany invaded Italy and began to treat Italians, particularly Italian soldiers, as enemy combatants. Italian soldiers abandoned their uniforms and joined others who felt a need to flee German “justice,” such as Jews.
More than anything else, this is a novel of personal religious struggle. Eva is a Jew, Angelo is not only a Christian but a Catholic priest. His religion will not allow the romantic involvement that he wants, even though on an unconscious level, with Eva. In the backdrop of war, with the German program of extermination of Jews advancing in its complexity and totality, Eva, a Jew hiding in plain sight, and Angelo, a Christian resistance fighter hiding and evacuating as many Jews as possible, play out their personal religious conflicts. Each of the two romantics reveals details of their faith that were new to me. Neither a fan of romance nor religious discourse, I remain fascinated by this story.
The Author’s Note section is worth reading. The author mentions which of the atrocities described are real. She also mentions which characters are real as well as what names are actual. This is a valuable addition to the collection of stories that assure us we will not forget horrors of the past. I gave this five Amazon stars as thanks for the research done and the story well told.
This 372-page novel sells for USD 2.00 on Amazon or is free for reading using a Kindle Unlimited (KU) subscription.