Thursday, March 25, 2021

Book Review: Eternal by Lisa Scottoline

Pages: 480
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: March 23, 2021
Publisher: Putnam
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "What war destroys, only love can heal.  Elisabetta, Marco, and Sandro grow up as the best of friends despite their differences. Elisabetta is a feisty beauty who dreams of becoming a novelist; Marco the brash and athletic son in a family of professional cyclists; and Sandro a Jewish mathematics prodigy, kind-hearted and thoughtful, the son of a lawyer and a doctor. Their friendship blossoms to love, with both Sandro and Marco hoping to win Elisabetta's heart. But in the autumn of 1937, all of that begins to change as Mussolini asserts his power, aligning Italy's Fascists with Hitler's Nazis and altering the very laws that govern Rome. In time, everything that the three hold dear--their families, their homes, and their connection to one another--is tested in ways they never could have imagined.  As anti-Semitism takes legal root and World War II erupts, the threesome realizes that Mussolini was only the beginning. The Nazis invade Rome, and with their occupation come new atrocities against the city's Jews, culminating in a final, horrific betrayal. Against this backdrop, the intertwined fates of Elisabetta, Marco, Sandro, and their families will be decided, in a heartbreaking story of both the best and the worst that the world has to offer.  Unfolding over decades, Eternal is a tale of loyalty and loss, family and food, love and war--all set in one of the world's most beautiful cities at its darkest moment. This moving novel will be forever etched in the hearts and minds of readers."


Life seems pretty good for Sandro, Marco, and Elisabetta as they grow up together in the beautiful city of Rome.  Sandro is a mathematical genius, Marco is the charming and athletic one, and Elisabetta is the dreamer who hopes to become a writer one day.   As they grow up, both boys have their eyes on their childhood friend turned beautiful girl, Elisabetta.  However, things start to change for their country when Mussolini starts to align himself with Hitler and the Nazis.  Before they know it, Jews in Rome are being subjected to unfair laws and as the days go on, the laws become more and more strict.  This greatly impacts Sandro's family as they are Jewish, but his father is a prominent lawyer and he hopes is that they can be exempt.  Meanwhile, Marco, a struggling student, finds himself working for Mussolini's people. At first, it's just a job that he happens to be good at, but things start to get serious and Marco starts questioning which side he is on. Before they know it, their community is impacted by the war and the Nazis.  Sandro, Marco and Elisabetta's lives will be changed irrevocably.  Eternal by Lisa Scottoline is a heartbreaking and compelling World War II novel that fans of the time period will especially enjoy.  

Most of the chapters in Eternal change narrators, and quickly at times, between Marco, Sandro and Elisabetta. At times, Scottoline does give us a glimpse into some secondary characters by having them briefly narrate, but for the most part, it is always these three main characters.  Marco is the typical jock that is stubborn, yet charismatic, and the life of the party.  He is naturally drawn into the Fascist party due to his loud personality.  Things aren't going to be simple for him though, because he finds his own brother on the anti-Fascist side, and his best friend, Sandro, is Jewish.  There's a lot of conflict coming up for Marco.  Marco is a the opposite of Sandro, who is bookish, a scholar, and more reserved.  My heart broke for him as his family was directly impacted by the Anti-Semitic laws in Rome. His mother, a successful doctor, was thrown out of her position at the hospital, along with his father, a very important lawyer.  At first, Sandro's family feels like they can keep their head above water, but we know what is to come and it had me on edge. Quite honestly, it was heartbreaking. 
Lastly, there's Elisabetta, whose story is also heartbreaking, but in different way.  Her mother is basically a horrible person and her father has an alcohol problem, so she finds herself alone a lot of the time or having to take care of her father. She works at a restaurant for Mrs. Servano, otherwise known as Nonna, and their bond warmed my heart.  Nonna is one of my favorite secondary characters in Eternal; I absolutely loved her moxie, her witty comments, and her unfailing love for Elisabetta.   I hinted at a love a triangle between Sandro, Marco and Elisabetta, and yes, it's there, but know it wasn't overdone. It worked for me in this case as it seemed quite possible amongst childhood friends.

Scottoline brings Rome to life very well in Eternal and the harsh realities of the war. I had visited Rome a few years ago and I felt like I was back there wandering the streets of Trastevere.  I obviously had some background regarding the horrors of WWII, but I wasn't entirely aware of what the Jews in Rome went through.  Most of the stories you hear focus on Jewish people from other countries.  I found the extortion, the absurd laws, and of course, the horrific roundup to be all very agonizing.  On the bright side, Scottoline did includes a lot of tidbits from history, such as the Vatican's part in helping the Jews, especially Monsignor O'Flaherty. I found him to be especially fascinating. They called him the Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican; he was responsible for saving thousands of Allied soldiers and Jews during the war. 

My only issue with Eternal was the last portion of the novel and its breakneck pace with choppy narration. It felt formulaic at times.  Without giving too much away, there are certain things that happened towards the end of the novel that just felt too easy. Nonetheless, Eternal is a memorable and moving historical novel that I really enjoyed. I hope Scottoline will be writing more historical novels in the future. 

Are you a fan of Lisa Scottoline? Is Eternal on your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts in the  comments below. 


  1. I've read a lot of WWII historical fiction, but I don't know that I've come across a book set in Italy. It's really interesting to focus on what the people there, especially Jewish people, were going through.

    1. Right? I have never read a book set during WWII in Italy. It was really eye-opening. I hope you get to read it! Thanks for visiting, Angela!

  2. I typically like historical fiction set in Italy - My Beautiful Ruins come to mind. However, I feel like the switching points of view will drive me crazy. I hope they're seamless, at least.

    Lovely review as always, Christina!

    1. I think she did a good job with switching POVs. At the end it was a bit jarring, but overall, it was done well. Thanks for visiting, Joy!


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