Recently I was sent a copy of Eugenio Corti's novel 'The Red Horse' to read. This looked like a daunting task as the book is over 1,000 pages in length. However I was amazed that the pages just seem to fly by. The novel is set in Italy during the Second World War and tells the story of how the war affected Italy and its people through the eyes of some of the participants. The first hundred pages may seem a little boring but I must tell you that after that the narrative moves along at an exciting pace. The story of the Italian soldiers fighting in Russia was magnificent and I don't think that I could go to far wrong in comparing this section of the book to Guy Sajer's 'The Forgotten Soldier'. The descriptions of the men and fighting were excellent and I found it hard to put the book down. I know that many historical authors tend to dismiss the Italian fighting soldier of World War Two but when consideration is given to the weapons and equipment used by the Italian Army it is understandable why they are compared in such bad light to the German soldier or the Allies. I must admit that this book opened my eyes to the misery suffered by the Italian soldiers in Russia and it also fired a desire to read more about the Italian Alpine troops and their campaigns during World War Two, especially in Russia. As I mentioned earlier the first hundred pages may seem boring initially but when you get into the book it makes sense why the author went into such detail about the central characters as we follow them and their families through the war and into the final peace. I cannot help but feel how the author has used his personal experience of serving on the Russian Front to make this such a great story; it is compelling reading. The accounts of the retreat during the Stalingrad battle are magnificent; you can actually picture the frozen wasteland as the soldiers tiredly trudge through the wind swept villages being hounded by the advancing Soviet troops. The accounts of the many rearguard actions are excellent and I really felt for the men who fell during the fighting. Many other reviews have mentioned that this is a powerful and moving novel of World War Two and I must concur with those sentiments. This is a great story and anyone who has an interest in the fighting on the Russian Front will be truly taken by this account. The book continues on another level with the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943 and the subsequent campaign in Italy. We follow accounts of the Italian partisans, Communists, Royalist and bandits. This again is another interesting level of the story and one, which I had very little knowledge of. I enjoyed this section of the book as much as the account of the Russian Front. The book does not finish with the war's end in 1945 but continues with the surviving characters through the harsh years of peace and political turmoil that Italy found itself in with the conflict between the Catholic Church and the Communist Party. Overall this book was a delight to read but at times towards the end maybe I felt that the author was trying to convert me to the Catholic Church however it must been read in the context of the times. I would have no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone who wants to learn about Italy during the war or anyone who has an interest in the Eastern Front during WWII. This is a great story and one of the best novels I have read in years, well done to the author!
This is by far the best book I have ever read. Corti finds a way to make you feel love and compassion for every character and it is not a story in which there is only one protagonist, but it's a complete society in which everyone is different. This is a historical novel which is based in real life experiences of Italian soldiers during World War II. Even though the characters are fictitious, the places, dates, experiences and numbers are all true so it gives a truthful deep impression about the years of this war but also about what happened after it.
This book is like a life experience, after reading it you will feel you have learned a lot, not only about history but also good and evil, compassion, love, friendship, loyalty and courage. During more than 10 years Corti worked in this masterpiece, and you can see that with the quality of his writing and every page leaves a message. Therefore, Corti has made my favorite writers go from "very good" to "simple narrators", he really cannot be compared.
When you finish this book, you will perceive life and death in a complete new way, realizing that we are here living a short phase which leads to a greater life of peace and happiness. Corti has the ability to explain complex things in a simple way, you will find answers to several of the recurrent questions about Christianity and the existence of God; even the ones that even Christians ask themselves from time to time.
Most likely my all time favourite WW2 novel. A sweeping saga. The other reviewers have put it better than I can. Anyone with an interest in WW2 should read this.
The author also wrote his memoir of his time on the eastern front and the terrible retreat across the steppes, that also is a superb read and after reading my opinion of Italian troops in WW2 changed totally.