Domenic’s War: A story of the Battle of Monte Cassino
Ages 12 and up
Tundra, 2006, 0-88776-751-6
Domenic’s world has been turned completely upside down. War is ripping his country apart as allied forces work their way up the Italian boot towards Rome. The Germans are fighting hard, making the allies pay dearly for every inch of ground that they claim. Information is hard to come by but everyone seems to know that something big is going to happen soon and that Monte Cassino is probably where this event, whatever it is, is going to take place. Domenic doesn’t have much time to think about the big picture however. There are two English pilots who are hiding in an old mill nearby who need to be fed and Domenic is the only one who can safely visit the mill every day. Then there is the simple business of surviving. Food is scarce and there are always the Germans to work about.
Not far away, in the village of Cassino, Antonio’s life is also in a state of chaos. His family was wiped out during a bombardment and he, along with many others, has no place to go. Surely the refugees will be safe if they take refuge in the monastery of Monte Cassino. Surely no one would dare to bomb such a building with its centuries of history and tradition. Unfortunately even the monastery is not safe and Antonio has to move on, thrust into a world where no one, not even a young boy, is safe.
This beautifully written account of what took place in Monte Cassino in Italy in 1944 is both powerful, and at times, shocking. There can be no doubt that those in charge on both sides made mistakes and that the tragic losses that the allies sustained could have been considerably less if someone had taken the time to understand how hard it was going to be to take Monte Cassino. We see, through the eyes of these two boys, what it was liked to be bombed, to be a refugee, to be forced to work for the enemy, to be afraid and to be perpetually hungry. We come to recognize how brave these people had to be to survive and to keep going despite the terrible privations that they had to suffer. To write this story the author has drawn on real stories that she was told by the people who lived to tell the world what happened at Monte Cassino. It is hard to put this book down without feeling a strong sense of loss and at the same time having a feeling for pride for the soldiers, the partisans, and the civilians who were so brave at such a terrible time.
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