The Lion and the Swastika is a story of the brutalities of war brought home to a young girl by the fall of Mussolini in 1943 and the consequent Nazi occupation of the entire Veneto region. This is also a romantic story set against the backdrop of terrible war and of a beautiful ancient city – Venice, fascinating in all seasons, from the flowering of spring to the winter magic of snow and high tide. But it is also the story of the awakening of a young woman to the cruelty in the world and the necessity of taking radical action in defense of her ideals and the freedom of her beloved country. In Venice the emblem of the winged Lion of Saint Mark, for centuries the symbol of the glorious Venetian Republic, is still the symbol of the unyielding Venetian people. This story, based on my own experience, is one told here to inspire those who fight for love and freedom.
At one point or another, most of us have studied World War II and learned about the horrors of the Holocaust. A lot of novels and memoirs and focus on the Nazi persecution of Jewish people, particularly concentration camps and death camps. The Lion and the Swastika, on the other hand, centers around the Nazi occupation of the Veneto region of Italy and the direct effect this had on Venice and its people.
The story focuses on a young girl named Marina Lorenzi and her family. Benson really brought the struggles of the Lorenzi family to life, such as the struggle just to get salt. It made me think about all of the things in my life that I take for granted. Although there were some scenes describing the troubles, Benson also made me sympathize for the characters by talking about the strain which the war put on their relationships with one another. I particularly enjoyed reading about Marco, the love interest, because he was such a sweet guy.
I will admit that this story was a little challenging to get into, because the writing was somewhat disjointed and choppy, and making it hard for a narrative flow to emerge. As the characters became more developed, though, this problem did get somewhat better, and I was rooting for Marina and her love story. If you want to pick up a novel that will both shed light on the conditions in Italy during WWII and keep you emotionally involved, I highly suggest picking up The Lion and the Swastika.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publicist in exchange for a fair review. Thank you!