Sunday, 16 June 2019

Escapes by Vic DiMartino

Escapes by Vic DiMartino
First published in America by Covenant Books in April 2019.

A 2019 New Release Challenge reads and one of my 2019 COYER Summer Challenge reads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Arturo DiMartino’s Italy is in ruins at the end of WWI.
Its politics splintered. Its economy tattered. Its social fabric shredded.

Italians blame their weak leaders and demand their overthrow. Mussolini steps onto the political stage and his populist views and spirited charisma captivate the country. Arturo joins Mussolini’s political campaign and begins a long political career under the Fascist Regime. Rewarded for his loyalty and political instinct, the National Fascist Party appoints him to the most powerful office in Sicily’s Trapani Province. But, when Il Duce tries to expand Italy's influence through military force, Arturo pushes back. His resistance starts a series of perilous events. The Blackshirts, Mussolini’s enforcers, issue an ultimatum—leave Italy or die.

Three generations of the family face one crisis after another. From life-threatening and near-death experiences to unwavering love and humorous episodes, Escapes is an insight into the tenacity and resilience of the human spirit. Based on a true story, it also exposes little-known facts about Italy's role in ending WWI and why the Great War’s aftermath led Italy to side with Germany in WWII.

Escapes is a bit of an odd combination of a book! Ostensibly historical fiction, it is actually written in a nonfiction style, but with imagined conversations liberally sprinkled through the story. Vic DiMartino recounts events in the lives of three men in his family: his grandfather Arturo, his father Nino, and his own early years. Through their actions and decisions, the lives of the whole family are irrevocably and drastically altered on several occasions. Arturo particularly comes across as a very self-centred person. His life story is unusual and I appreciated this opportunity to have discovered it, but I am glad not to have been one of the family caught up in the aftermath of his actions!

There are areas of interesting information in Escapes, especially on the subjects of the Allies' political betrayal of Italy at the end of the First World War and the North African concentration and labour camps during the Second World War. DiMartino has obviously done significant research around these places and periods which have generally been overlooked, I think, in other fictional (and nonfiction) accounts.

Overall though, unfortunately, I didn't feel that Escapes truly fulfilled its potential. Repetition of minutiae slows its pace and I often didn't find the dialogue convincing. The book is very male in its attitude and priorities with the women occasionally being decorative sounding boards, but otherwise ignored. For me, Escapes suffers from not knowing whether it wants to be a biography or historical fiction. It doesn't have the evocative descriptions or depth of characterisation to succeed as the latter, and I wonder if this story would actually be better served without its fictionalised elements.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Vic DiMartino / Historical fiction / Books from Morocco


  1. I did study this time period in history so I think I would be able to remember a lot of the historical details but also learn new ones from reading this. It sounds like it is written in such a unique way though -- never really heard of one like this! Sorry it disappointed you though :(

    1. Escapes had its good points, but I felt it needed professional editing to truly shine