About the book
This novel hinges on the battle of Monte Cassino, Italy, in World War II, covering the international contingents and their contribution to that victory.
The four month long battle at Monte Cassino in southern Italy was one of the bloodiest of World War II. In this highly original novel, Janeczek retells that 1944 battle from the point of view of the Maori, Gurkha, Polish, North African, small-town American and other Allied foot soldiers who fought and died under German fire near that 6th century Benedictine abbey. Twined through the battle is another story, a memory of the drowned and the saved in Janeczek’s own family in wartime Eastern Europe, where Jews who did not go to Nazi death camps went to Soviet gulag camps, and sometimes survived, and even went on to fight at Monte Cassino. A powerful reflection on all the ways that rights can be taken from us.
“Helena Janeczek’s novel is this: a tattoo etched on the skin, and not painlessly. A vast design that brings together threads from all the various lives that converged in that legendary battle. The beauty of her tale lies in its structure, the way opposites converge: the chaos of battle and the silence of the defeated, ordinariness and the heroism of the powerless, carefully guarded memory and impetuous youth, the past perpetually intertwined with the present.”
―Roberto Saviano, author of Gomorrah