I thought I’d tell you what inspired me to write my Italian novella, Where Sunflowers Grow, which will be published in April 2021. It’s set in Italy during the years 1943-1946 and looks at the struggle against Mussolini’s Fascist regime and then against the Germans when Italy switched sides in 1943. Did you know that Italy was first an ally of Germany and then its enemy?
The story has been on my mind for years, ever since I read a nonfiction history text that briefly mentioned a German soldier who’d been shot and killed in a field of sunflowers in Italy. The image of a dead soldier in the monotone grey uniform of the German infantry, juxtaposed with a sunny field of cheery yellow sunflowers bobbing their heads in a warm breeze, has stayed with me. I started to read about the Italian experience in World War II and came across incredible accounts of Italians who didn’t support Mussolini and partisan fighters who struggled against the political regime and then the Germans. In my research, I discovered a relative of mine had been a Kiwi prisoner of war. But I’ll save this for a future post.
In 2011 and 2012, I worked in Rome. I lived in an apartment block in Testaccio and most evenings after dinner I’d walk to the Colosseum and think of all the historical stories I could tell. An old couple in the apartment building had been involved in anti-Fascist activities during WWII and told me a bit about their experiences (their English was as bad as my Italian but we made ourselves understood over some great cappuccinos and biscotti).
This is the blurb for Where Sunflowers Grow (although it might change a bit) –
He’s a political exile. She’s part of the Italian Resistance. Together they will face the ruthlessness of war.
Rome, 1943 – Carlo Moretti’s life changes forever when he is sent into exile to a remote Italian village. As a political student, Carlo opposes Mussolini’s Fascist government, but he loses everything and finds himself in a world that time has forgotten and where superstition still has a hold. Carlo joins the local resistance, and as German troops march into the village and an SS officer takes command, he risks his life for the woman he loves and discovers the unexpected friendship of a priest and an Allied prisoner of war. But Carlo must learn not everyone can be trusted. Where Sunflowers Grow is a story of hope and what it takes to survive in war-torn Italy.
I’ll tell you more about Carlo and the woman he loves (Assunta) in upcoming posts.