Innocent War: Behind an Immigrant’s Past, Book 1

Susan Violante
Outskirts Press (2011)
ISBN 9781432770471

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (5/11)

“Innocent War” is Book 1 in the “Behind an Immigrant’s Past Series” and covers the period 1940 - 1945. The story is transcribed from the taped memoirs of author Susan Violante’s Italian immigrant father, Nino Assenza. The account is written as a first person narrative revealing a boy’s point of view from childhood through his adolescence. Nino’s experiences combine the innocence of youth and the confusion of coming of age. Nino becomes a man as he learns to discern truth through the drama, conflict, and reality of war.

Great Britain and France have just declared war on the country of Italy. Tripoli is being bombed by the French. Nino is ten-years-old at the beginning of his narrative. Salvatore, his father, is called to serve his country in the Army. Mama, Nino and little Gina are left behind to begin a new uncertain life style in the midst the hardships, dangers, and tragedies resulting from war.

Nino describes the impact of the propagation of Mussolini’s government lies, the imposed regulations, and the atrocities committed against the Jews by the Nazis, and Fascists. He relates how the German army took control in Italy. Nino tells how the first exhilaration of war turns to an unrelenting fear and a pursuit for survival. He describes daily bombings, the horror, the hardships, hunger, near starvation, and of losing childhood friends through death brought on by war. Nino tells of his mother’s faith, perseverance, stamina and desperation in her effort to keep the family together and safe from harm. In the midst of these trials Nino’s humor comes through as he tells of how his practical jokes, curiosity, pranks, and mischief frequently get him into trouble.

Susan Violante delivers an accurate historical account of Italy’s involvement in WWII. Her writing is creative. Her characters are authentic, warm, and three dimensional.  “Innocent War” adds intense drama and the adventure of fiction providing a unique point of view within the context of important era of world history. Susan’s writing is compelling, entertaining, and informative.  She weaves a pointed message of patriotism, perseverance, integrity, and an awakening as well as a heartwarming glimpse into humanity at its worst and at its best.

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