Top critical review
Fascinating war drama
24 January 2020
"Once Night Falls" by award-winning author, Roland Merullo is a World War II drama set in Italy in 1943. Luca Benedetto, who has a Jewish lover, Sarah, has joined the partisans in their fight against German troops in the region around Lake Como, close to the Swiss border. He is not alone in his struggle against the occupying forces. Luca’s mother is called upon by a group of German soldiers to cook for them and she forms a daring plot which, if it fails, will have devastating consequences. The local priest, who is battling his own demons, finds a way to help the partisans, fully aware of the serious risk he is undertaking. Meanwhile, Mussolini has been deposed and Allied armies are fighting their way up from Sicily. The country is at a crossroads and the locals of Luca’s village must decide how much they are prepared to sacrifice for the sake of their future.
Despite its setting, "Once Night Falls" is more historical fiction than it is thriller. The first half of the story is a little confusing as the author weaves, quite quickly, between characters and scenes so that it takes a long time to get to know each character properly and where the story is heading. Accordingly, I found the novel a little slow paced, at least in its earlier stages. That said, Merullo’s award-winning ability as a writer shines through and once you do get to know the characters and what exactly is going on, it is a fascinating and interesting story. Not too many war novels deal with ordinary people in an ordinary village in war-torn Italy and the colourful characters are deftly, creatively and seamlessly woven into the factual background.