review by Maryom
In 1943 through the wire of a prison camp, Katerina, a girl from Leningrad meets Aldo, a soldier from Venice. She passes him a crust of bread - but more importantly, she gives him hope - that someone still cares what happens to him, that there will one day be an end to the war. Throughout his imprisonment Aldo holds on to his memory of the snatched moments with Katerina and the promise that one day they'll meet again, but when he eventually finds himself free and heading home to Italy an older desire resurfaces - for revenge on the man he believes was responsible for his father's death.
From 1943, the story moves back to Katerina's childhood in late 20s Leningrad and to Venice during the months before Aldo is conscripted into the Italian army, then through his time in a Russian prison of war camp and onward to his eventual return to Italy in 1950.
This is an unusual war story told from the perspective of an Italian soldier sent to fight on the German's Eastern front, and imprisoned as the Russians take the offensive and begin their sweep towards Berlin. But although the war forms the backdrop, at the heart of the story lies a different battle between good and evil impulses within Aldo's heart. Unfortunately, I didn't really engage with the characters; although I'd been told about Aldo's burning desire for revenge, and the calming influence of his love for Katerina, I always felt removed from his emotions and didn't feel either.
Maryom's review - 3 stars
Publisher - Polygon
Genre - historical fiction