Book review and competition: Pippo & Clara

Pippo & Clara

Diana Rosie

Pan Macmillan

Review: Karen Watkins

It’s 1938 and Benito Mussolini is in power as World War II approaches. The Fascists have control of the country but not necessarily the people. The Italian Communists are fighting back.

Clara sees her father fatally attacked by three men. She, her mother and her brother leave the countryside and arrive in Rome in the middle of the night with their few possessions.

Mamma promises Clara and her brother Pippo that they will make the small apartment their new home. One morning mamma gets up early to find work. When Clara wakes to find her gone she heads out to search for her, spontaneously turning right as she steps from their building. Pippo later wakes to find both his mother and sister gone. He also decides to go out and look for them. He turns left.

The children get seperated but are luckily each unofficially adopted into families who love and care for them,. However, quiet, studious Clara’s family are Fascists while endlessly chattering Pippo’s are Communists.

With amber eyes and exotic appearance Clara is bullied at school because she looks different from the other children.

The story revolves around how the children’s seemingly small decisions lead them down radically different paths. Will Clara and Pippo – and their mother – find each other again?

Not knowing about this period in Italian history, I enjoyed how the children’s journey is woven into the acts of espionage by freedom fighters against the Fascists under Mussolini’s regime.

There is also the bigger picture of when the Germans occupied Italy, when Jews were rounded up and taken away and people feared for their freedom and lives.

It’s a moving and fateful story brewing with tension, danger, and political divide, the futility of war and the bond of family, real or adopted.

The characters are well developed and likeable and Diane Rosie’s writing style is smooth and engaging, making this an enjoyable easy read that gripped me from the first few pages to the bittersweet ending.

● One lucky reader can win a copy of Pippo & Clara. To enter our competition, send an email with your name, address and phone number to before midnight on Sunday July 11. Please add “Pippo & Clara competition” in the subject line.