Monday, May 28, 2018

Book Review: 'Heaven Cries' by Stephan Silva

Florida author Stephan Silva is both a pharmacist (with his degree from St. John's University) and a podiatrist, having earned his degree from New York College of Podiatric Medicine. Stephan owns and operates a wound care clinic in Boca Raton, Florida and when not writing or practicing the healing arts, he is a writer and a fan of martial arts. Pertinent to this exceptional book about WW II Michael’s passion is international travel - especially to Piacenza, Italy where he has family and absorbs the facts of his great uncle Artemio Silva’s life serving in the Italian Royal Air Force during World War II and his subsequent internment under Nazi occupation. HEAVEN CRIES is his debut novel and has already won the Gold Medal for historical fiction from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association.

Stephen’s gifts for recreating Northern Italy of the time of WW II are particularly fine – not only in the painting of the landscapes but in the ambience of the people. He early on reminds s of the poverty that pervaded Italy following WW I and how in many ways this abetted the philosophy of our main character Artemio Battaglia. We gradually learn about his parents and family and the early horrors witnessed by them by the police and the wealthy. Witnessing the difficulties of life in this era Artemio commits to change life for the better for himself and his family.

Stephen’s terse synopsis shares the essentials of the plot: ‘When Artemio Battaglia joins the Regia Aeronautica to become a fighter pilot at the beginning of World War II, he’s inspired by the romanticized patriotism of the Fascists. His idealism is shattered when he witnesses atrocities committed against indigenous populations in North Africa, and the officials he informs do nothing to stop the murderers. Their response is to transfer him to the most dangerous front in the war. A disillusioned Artemio returns to Piacenza to find his city occupied by ruthless German soldiers. He enlists in the war again, this time as a member of the Red Brigades. With a renewed sense of purpose, Artemio repeatedly places himself in peril, sabotaging German supply lines and giving aid to the Allies. But when his comrades capture a downed Italian pilot and schedule a hasty execution, Artemio recoils at the senseless violence. Once again, he is called to act in accordance with his conscience and embarks on a bold plan to set things right.’

Or as is stated at book’s end, ‘Heaven Cries is a fictionalized account of Stephan’s Great Uncle Artemio Silva and his exploits in the Royal Italian Airforce during World War II and subsequent internment under Nazi occupation. Air combat above the desert of North Africa and his imprisonment in an Auschwitz bound train car are factual, as was the barbaric nature of partisan resistance to Nazi atrocities.’

Too few know of the Italian struggle between Fascism and Nazi rule. There could be no finer way to return to history for appreciation of a brave country’s people than this exceptional book. Very highly recommended. Grady Harp, May 18

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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