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Emiliano is born into poverty in Bardi, Italy. Tragedy forces him to leave and travel to South Wales, where he is welcomed into a small mining village. He grows to love the life and people he finds there, forming a close friendship with a rugby playing miner, Bryn, and falling in love with Ella. They experience the joy of a young family and the hardships of the Depression, but then everything spins out of control when war descends upon Europe. The warmth the village feels for Emi is not shared by a country that turns against Italians living in Britain and he is interned when Italy declares war in 1940.
Emi begins a journey of hardship through internment camps and on the sea. Meanwhile, Ella struggles with the consequences of internment and Bryn begins his own journey which takes him through the North African desert, confrontation with the Italian army and then, eventually, into Italy.
Alongside their stories of lives controlled by outside forces, the novel charts the rise and ultimate fall of Mussolini and the nation’s turmoil as Italy spends time on both sides of the battle lines.
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