I’ve just read The Good Italian by Stephen Burke

Set in the Italian colony of Eritrea during the Second World War, The Good Italian is a love story, a war story, a story of heroism and of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events. Will appeal to fans of Louis de Berniere’s Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and the novels of William Boyd.


Enzo Secchi, harbourmaster for Massawa, Eritrea’s main port, is a loyal Italian colonial servant. He takes pride in running the docks, enjoys the occasional drink with his gregarious friend Salvatore, colonel of the local Italian garrison, and listens to Caruso in his spare time. But he is lonely and when Salvatore suggests he find an Eritrean housekeeper to cook, clean – and maybe share his bed – Enzo takes the plunge and advertises. Salvatore’s own tastes run to the young and nubile, but Enzo surprises himself by choosing Aatifa, a sharp-tongued woman in her 30s with a complicated family life, who takes the job as a last resort. What neither of them had counted on was falling in love.

But it is 1935, Fascism is on the rise, and Mussolini does not intend Eritrea to remain a backwater for long. Italian forces bent on invading Ethiopia begin arriving at the port. And with them come new laws – including one forbidding ‘Relationships of a Conjugal Nature’ with Eritrean women . . .

Meanwhile, Salvatore finds himself at the head of the invasion force bound for Ethiopia. Gone are the glory days of garrison life; it is a bitter campaign, laying bare all the brutality of Italian colonial ambition. Its consequences for Salvatore, and for Enzo and Aatifa as they contrive to hide their relationship in plain sight, will change all three lives for ever.

My thoughts:

Although it took me a while to get into this book, I am thoroughly pleased that I was given the opportunity to review this book.

In the initial stages I thought the book just plodded along telling the story of Enzo and his daily routine.  Things do start to get rather interesting once Aatifa becomes part of his life.  You realise that she is a complicated person with many facets to her personality.

I am glad I persisted with the book as I became thoroughly involved, as the years go by and the beginning of the Second World War looms.  Given that I have not read much about this period of time and what went on in northern Africa during this time, I did find it really interesting.  Yes artistic licence is used, but Burke also mostly based his book on historical fact.

I would highly recommend this book.

Review copy provided by publisher.

About the Author:

Born and raised in Dublin, Stephen Burke studied film at the Dublin Institute of Technology. His first feature film was Happy Ever Afters, starring Golden Globe winner Sally Hawkins. His directing work for television includes the TV film Anner House, based on a story by Maeve Binchy; and the award winning state of the nation series No Tears, which won Best Drama Series at the Monte Carlo TV festival. He began his writing and directing career making multi-award winning short films about the conflict in Northern Ireland – After ’68 and 81.A father of three children, he lives and works between Ireland and Italy.

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