Beneath a Scarlet Sky


Mark Sullivan

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Beneath a Scarlet Sky Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Mark Sullivan's Beneath a Scarlet Sky. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Mark Sullivan

Mark Sullivan was raised near Boston, Massachusetts before going to Hamilton College to study English. After graduating with his BA in 1980, Mark worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer. After two years, Mark returned to the United States to study journalism at Northwestern University. For the next several years, he worked numerous jobs related to journalism and politics. In 1990, he decided to put his job on hold on try his hand at writing. A few years later, in 1994, Mark published his first novel, The Fall Line, and in 1995, he followed it up with another, Hard News. However, it was not until his third novel, The Purification Ceremony, that Mark became a well-known writer. Since publishing The Purification Ceremony, Mark has become a household name. He’s co-authored five books with James Patterson, and his novel Beneath a Scarlet Sky is currently being adapted as a film. Most recently, Mark published a novel titled The Last Green Valley, which explores World War II from the perspective of a German family living in Ukraine.
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Historical Context of Beneath a Scarlet Sky

Beneath a Scarlet Sky takes place in Milan, Italy during World War II. At this time, Italy was under the rule of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who allied himself with Hitler during the war. As the war dragged on, Mussolini gradually lost control of his country to the Nazi party. He became what is known as a puppet ruler; that is, a ruler who is considered a leader in title only. In reality, Hitler and other high-ranking members of the SS were in control of Italy during much of the war. As is depicted in the novel, this left many Italians in a difficult place. Many of them were opposed to Mussolini and even more were opposed to Hitler, yet they feared for their lives and the lives of their children. However, the longer the war dragged on, the less tolerant the Italian people became of Nazi policies. Many fought back as part of resistance efforts, especially near the end of the war. Additionally, this novel makes numerous references to the Holocaust. Most Italians, like Pino, knew the Germans were oppressing Jewish people, but the magnitude of barbarism we now associate with the Holocaust was not widely known until Allied soldiers began liberating concentration camps at the end of the war.

Other Books Related to Beneath a Scarlet Sky

Beneath a Scarlet Sky fits neatly into the genre of historical fiction, a genre that emerged in the early 1800s with the works of Sir Walter Scott. Scott’s most famous books include Rob Roy (1817) and Ivanhoe (1819), both of which are classics within the genre. From the time of Sir Walter Scott, all the way up until the present, debates have existed about how much liberty authors should be allowed to take when writing historical fiction. Many critics of historical fiction raise an eyebrow when authors alter historical fact to better suit their narrative. Meanwhile, defenders of historical fiction argue that such a line of criticism forgets about the “fiction” half of the genre. Such conversations were had about Scott’s fiction, and they are being had again today in critical discussions of Beneath a Scarlet Sky. Of course, Beneath a Scarlet Sky is not the only piece of contemporary World War II historical fiction. Other recent releases include Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel All the Light We Cannot See and Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, which sold millions of copies. Historical fiction remains one of the most beloved genres in American fiction, both by reviewers and popular audiences. At least half of recent Pulitzer Prize winners belong to the genre, including Louise Erdrich’s The Night Watchman, Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys, and Doerr’s aforementioned All the Light We Cannot See
Key Facts about Beneath a Scarlet Sky
  • Full Title: Beneath a Scarlet Sky
  • Where Written: Bozeman, Montana
  • When Published: 2017
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Setting: Milan, Italy during World War II
  • Climax: Pino watches helplessly as Anna is shot to death by a firing squad after falsely being labeled a Nazi collaborator.
  • Antagonist: General Leyers
  • Point of View: Third Person

Extra Credit for Beneath a Scarlet Sky

Collaboration. Mark Sullivan has co-authored five novels with best-selling author James Patterson.

Adaptation. Beneath a Scarlet Sky is currently being adapted as a film, with Tom Holland slated to play Pino Lella.