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Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, 1994)
When Italy surrendered to the Allies in 1943, Italian troops in France retreated with a number of Jewish refugees -- an act that Carter (Borderlands, 1990) commemorates with this heroic but loosely knit story. Fleeing both the Germans and the Milice (French secret police), Corporal Vito Salvani is separated from all his companions except little Judah Fleur; the two set off on foot through the mountains. Salvani is big, simple, and fundamentally decent; he speaks in gruff, semi-coherent fragments, uncomplainingly carries Judah most of the way and, when he finds the Italian border closed, doubles back through hostile territory rather than abandon him. Though their trek has some attributes of a conventional thriller, the plot here is secondary to the metaphorical struggle. Judah is more a Christ-child figure than an ordinary boy; the jacket art is not the only place Salvani is cast as St. Christopher; their pursuer is satanically handsome of mien but grossly misshapen in body and morals. The action frequently halts for a wider view: of the Milice's torture chambers, of the French roundup of Jews, of the horrors of the Holocaust and the depravity of those conducting it. Despite a tense climax, this reads most clearly on its symbolic level; thus, readers may find Zuccotti's Italians and the Holocaust (1987), a history Carter recommends, a more absorbing account of this little-known episode. 1994, FSG, $17.00. © 1994 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
This breathlessly paced historical novel is not a literary masterpiece, but it does an outstanding job of recreating the ambience of WW II France, measuring the chill efficiency of the Gestapo and assessing the ruthless fervor of other accomplices to the Holocaust. When the Italian forces withdraw from France following Italy's surrender in 1943, Vito Salvani, an Italian corporal, gets trapped behind enemy lines--along with Judah, a Jewish child he has promised to take to the safety of Italy. A few innocent missteps and unlucky encounters bring Salvani and his charge to the attention of a particularly single-minded inspector from the Vichy secret police, and a harrowing pursuit begins. Those who help Salvani and Judah are severely punished; several scenes of a Gestapo interrogation suggest the brutality and inexorability of the government's treatment of Jews and other so-called enemies. Carter's ( Borderlands ; Bury the Dead ) characterizations are thin, and neither Salvani nor Judah ever takes on a life beyond the page. Even so, their story is believable and utterly gripping; the reader will leave this novel with some appreciation of the extraordinary good fortune and courage of people who successfully resisted the Nazi regime. Ages 12-up. (May)
John Jacob (The ALAN Review, Winter 1995 (Vol. 22, No. 2))
Peter Carter tells two stories here. One story is about the brave, stolid Italian soldier stuck with a young Jewish boy in war-torn France just as Italy pulls out of the war. The other is a story of evil, represented by a man named Palet, one of the Fascist French police. Palet literally goes mad trying to find the rough Italian and the young Jewish boy. This is not a book for the squeamish. As Carter tells his tale, he relates more and more about Palet and his fixation on the Italian and the Jew, and the fact that his orders come from the infamous Klaus Barbie from Lyons, who is accountable to Adolf Hitler. This is a story of resistance by the Italian soldiers and by many of the French, and of a heroic act at the Swiss border. It keeps the reader wanting more, and it never fails to deliver a twist here, an unexpected change there. It is a book well worth a young reader's time, especially those unfamiliar with the role of the Italians in World War II. 1993, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 326 pp., $17.00. Ages 12 up.
Betsy Hearne (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March 1994 (Vol. 47, No. 7))
This is the saga of an Italian soldier's retreat from Vichy France in 1943. It could have been as easy as joining a truckload of his men over the mountains, but Corporal Salvani chooses to concern himself with the fate of a Jewish child who will inevitably be killed by the approaching Nazis if he's not evacuated. With all the elements of cracking good historical fiction, this is unfortunately overwritten, overdrawn, and overdramatized. You can have a World War II adventure story, and you can have Holocaust realism, but putting them together makes a reader feel manipulated by formulaic violence; scenes of torture seem calculated to heighten the excitement here, and the ending plays an overt game of cat-and-mouse with our reactions. Subject matter aside, the reader is exposed to paragraph-long sentences that are more pretentious than effective. Description is exaggerated to the point of stereotype; we soon know the hero is good-hearted and the villain is unspeakable, and we yearn to see the constant reiteration of their roles exchanged for more subtly varied depth. It's too bad, because Carter really does have a sense of storytelling. Underneath its verbiage and affected style, the novel has skillful pacing, a vivid setting, and a core of characters about whom we learn to care a lot-which is what makes the stylistic overkill so frustrating: "Wincing with pain, he lurched away from the rock. 'Major!' he shouted. 'Fleur!' scraping scraped hands and gashing gashed flesh as, spitting blood and cursing, he plunged through scrub with thorns as fanged as barbed wire, until, raked and slashed, he found the car." M--Marginal book that is so slight in content or has so many weaknesses in style or format that it should be given careful consideration before purchase. Reviewed from galleys (c) Copyright 1994, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 1994, Farrar, [320p], $17.00. Grades 8-12.
|Language||Call Number||LCCN||Dewey Decimal||ISBN/ISSN|
|English (eng)||PZ7.C2478 Hu 1994
0374335206 : $17.00|