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The story begins in New York, but since the central character, Ennio, an Italian-American pastry chef, decides he should sign up, the action soon moves to the invasion of Italy. He becomes a cook with a company moving north from Naples, village by village, toward Rome. Meanwhile Lucia is working the family farm in the Liri Valley below the Abbey of Monte Cassino. Ennio and his friends are stopped short by the Germans at their Gustav Line, of which the Abbey forms a crucial part. Lucia’s farm is bombed, and she and Ennio are soon involved personally in one of the worst battles of WWII.
In New York City in 1943, immigrant Italians who had not become American citizens were relocated and interred in the heartland of America. American-born Ennio Capriotti, the son of one such Italian couple could no longer keep the family bakery open during the absence of his parents and decided to enlist in the army. Overweight and out of shape, he found his calling as an army cook. At the same time, Lucia Albani, the oldest child working a family farm in rural Italy, tried to keep the farm operating while her father served in the Italian army. The lives of Ennio and Lucia intersected at the base of Monte Cassino, part of the Germans’ defensive Gustav Line, when the American forces advanced toward Rome.
Valdinato, 1943 is a skillfully written account of the relationship that developed between an American G.I. and an Italian farm family. The fictitious town of Valdinato, near the Albani farm, is rich with colorful characters and detail, fitting seamlessly with the very real events of the war that were raging around them during this time period. Germans, Italians, Americans, civilians, warriors, and collaborators are all represented.
Valdinato, 1943 is the story of ordinary men and women who became extraordinary because of the tasks they were called to do during the grueling, horrible years of war. David Andrew Westwood writes of these ordinary people whose lives were disrupted, distorted, and forever changed by the war they served in or were subjected to. It is a compelling story of love, loss, and redemption.
Reviewed by: Betsy Beard (2013)