A.L. Sowards's Reviews > The Bicycle Runner: A Memoir of Love, Loyalty, and the Italian Resistance

The Bicycle Runner by G. Franco Romagnoli
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May 02, 12

bookshelves: history, history-wwii, read-in-2012

I picked this book up at the library because I was wondering what it would be like to have grown up in Fascist Italy, and this was the only book on the shelves that looked promising. I got what I was looking for, plus some. I LOVED the author’s writing style. If his other books weren’t in a different genre, I would be adding them to my to-read list because the writing is so good.

This book is partly a growing up and coming of age story, partly a war memoir. It’s not heavy on the military history—he’s with the Partisans for about 1/6th of the book. It gives good insight into Italian culture, civilian life during war, and what it’s like to live through such upheaval. The author and the people from his past were painted very well. He made me feel like I’d met them. Some were admirable, some very much not so, but they did seem real. Here’s a quote from the book: “History books give a definite date for the end of our war: April 25, 1945. But for some it was earlier than that, for others much later. For a few it never ended, and they still carry it within themselves.” Romagnoli’s war took a few years beyond V-E Day to end, but it did end, eventually, and he was able to move on with life and offer forgiveness to those who had fought on the opposite side and offer hope to a few friends very much in need of hope.

I should note that the book isn’t completely clean. There’s some profanity. Most of it’s confined to one chapter, when as a boy he decides to swear up a storm because adults can swear and he’s ready to become an adult. Then his father walks past and he’s worried about his upcoming punishment, but his father assumes he’s just upset about Germany invading Poland, and the father is upset about that too, so no punishment follows. There’s also some sex—not very detailed, but present. So if that doesn’t bug you and you like history, I highly recommend giving this book a try.
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