Mussolini's Island by Sarah Day
Seductive, moving and full of insight into the desperate acts committed by individuals when fighting for their lives, MUSSOLINI'S ISLAND is a novel of sexuality and desire, and the secrets we keep locked within us. For any reader of Anthony Doerr's ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE or Virginia Baily's EARLY ONE MORNING. Francesco has a memory of his father from early childhood, a night when life for his family changed: their name, their story, their living place.
From that night, he has vowed to protect his mother and to follow the words of his father: Non mollare. Never give up. When Francesco is rounded up with a group of young men and herded into a camp on the island of San Domino, he realises that someone has handed a list of names to the fascist police; everyone is suspicious of one another.
His former lover Emilio is constantly agitating for revolution. His old friend Gio jealously watches their relationship rekindle. Locked in spartan dormitories, resentment and bitterness between the men grows each day.
Elena, a young and illiterate island girl on the cusp of womanhood, is drawn to the handsome Francesco yet fails to understand why her family try to keep her away from him. By day, she makes and floats her paper birds, willing them to fly from the island, just as she wants to herself. Sometimes, she is given a message to pass on.
She's not sure who they are from; she knows simply that Francesco is hiding something. When Elena discovers the truth about the group of prisoners, the fine line between love and hate pulls her towards an act that can only have terrible consequences for all.