The Artist and the Soldier – Angelle Petta
Two young men come of age and fall in love, set against the backdrop of true events during World War II.
It’s 1938. Bastian Fisher and Max Amsel meet at an American-Nazi camp, Siegfried. Neither have any idea what to do with their blooming, confusing feelings for one another. Before they can begin to understand, the pair is yanked apart and forced in opposite directions.
Five years later, during the heart of World War II, Bastian’s American army platoon lands in Salerno, Italy. Max is in Nazi-occupied Rome where he has negotiated a plan to hire Jews on as ‘extras’ in a movie—an elaborate ruse to escape the Nazis. Brought together by circumstance and war, Bastian and Max find one another again in Rome.
Exploring the true stories of Camp Siegfried and the making of the film, La Porta del Cielo, The Artist and the Soldier is intense, fast moving, and sheds light on largely untouched stories in American and Italian history.
The Artist and the Soldier was right up my alley. A historical novel set in the WWII era featuring two young men who fell in love. And it started as idyllic. Max and Bastian met and became close in Camp Siegfied, a real life American-Nazi summer camp for young boys of Aryan descent. I think of it as idyllic even though they have to deal with bullies and other unpleasantness. This is the part where the two boys, in their relative innocence, felt drawn to each other though they don’t fully understand it yet.
The summer was interrupted by the pronouncement that Max’s father was death. This is followed by tedious scenes of dealing with grief and Max’s mentally ill mother which was made worse by Bastian’s monumental fuck up just right after the boys admit their feeling to each other. This effectively killed my enthusiasm for the book.
I understand this is a ME problem and maybe I’m so used to romance where HEAs are a given. Age-gap makes me cringe but I could shrug it off, abuse, dub-con or non-con might be pushing it but the ultimate turn off for me is cheating. And I couldn’t fathom what in the fucking hell made Bastian meekly follow that woman to her bedroom right after having sex with Max. Also, Bastian is possibly bisexual (he has been with girls) and if so, here we go with the cheating bi thing. Can we not with this trope, please?
And so with a heavy heart, I tried to read the rest of the story but like I said, the impetus is dead.
Objectively (because I need to take a step back from my own stupid biases), I love the premise. It combines two real historical events, the film La Porta del Cielo and the American-German camps. Stories about how Jews escape the Nazis are always fascinating and it always amazes me how resourceful and resilient people can be in order to survive. I think most readers would love this book. I recommend this for history buffs, especially those into WWII stories, and those who, unlike me, can move past Bastian’s mistake. Because deep in my heart, I know there’s more to the story than their love affair.
I received a copy of The Artist and the Soldier from
via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
No stars because it’s a ME issue.
Edit: Netgalley is asking for stars so I will give it 2 Stars – it’s a struggle to finish the damn book