Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Port of No Return by Michelle Saftich

Opening Paragraph: "Finally he sleeps," Ettore grumbled as he dipped a chunk of hardened bread into a shallow dish of olive oil. His arms rested upon the wooden kitchen tabletop. A lit candle cast no warmth and only enough light to reach his calloused hands. The oil caught the flame's reflection and glowed; he gazed past the golden orb, unseeing."

Synopsis:

Contessa and Ettore Saforo awake to a normal day in war-stricken, occupied Italy. By the end of the day, however, their house is in ruins and they must seek shelter and protection wherever they can. But the turbulent politics of 1944 refuses to let them be.
As Tito and his Yugoslav Army threaten their German-held town of Fiume, Ettore finds himself running for his life, knowing that neither side is forgiving of those who have assisted the enemy. His wife and children must also flee the meagre life their town can offer, searching for a better life as displaced persons.
Ettore and Contessa's battle to find each other, and the struggle of their family and friends to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of a devastating war, provide a rich and varied account of Italian migration to Australia after World War II.
What can you do when you have nowhere left to call home? Port of No Return considers this question and more in a novel that is full of action, pain and laughter - a journey you will want to see through to the very end.

Review by Mirella Patzer

When it comes to stories set during World War II, I am always more interested in those that focus on the plight of the civilians rather than the military experience. This is why I was drawn to this novel as it reflects some of what my own family experienced before my parents immigrated to Canada. The story is set in the north east area of Italy in a city named Fiume which became part of Yugoslavia, or today's Croatia. Through the experiences of two families, the author does a great job of introducing the hardships the civilians faced living under the auspices of danger and war and occupation. The loss of home, displaced refugees, unbearable acts of terror and cruelty, and the severe hunger caused by enemy seizures. It is how many Italians of that era found themselves contemplating relocation as refugees to safer havens such as Australia, Canada, or the U.S. In this novel, it is Australia they seek. 

Through the eyes of the protagonists, Ettore and Contessa, we experience the danger, the many kindnesses, the poignanat and painful moments of war. These characters represent thousands of Italians forced to flee their beloved homeland.  The author did a wonderful job of describing the effects of the war, along with the history of how that area of Italy was affected. 

This novel is definitely a worth reading, especially for those whose roots are deeply embedded in Italy, like me! Recommended!

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