Southern Italy in the 1930s was chaotic and violent - the rise of dictator Mussolini, the dawn of Europe's descent into another World War, and continuation of turf battles between Mafia families. This was certainly no place for a young woman to assume power, but 17-year-old Carina broke the mold. Forced to become the family matriarch after her father's sudden death, Carina finds herself responsible for the care of her 12 younger siblings. Cornered, she is forced to marry Russo, the Prince of Naples and head of the notorious Camorra organized crime family. To her horror, she soon discovers that Russo has lured her seven younger brothers into the nefarious web of the Camorra. With no recourse but to accept her family's situation, she submits to the circumstances and lends her invaluable skills to her husband, growing and expanding his criminal enterprises. As World War II breaks out, the family walks a dangerous line between politics and crime. A bomb detonated in Russo's house renders him both deaf and dumb. Should the Camorra learn Russo is no longer capable of command, Carina knows that her family will lose everything. To secure her family's position, she does the unthinkable: she dons her husband's clothes and masquerades as him, wading into the treacherous men-only world of the Camorra where any misstep could mean a sudden and violent end. Discovery is inevitable and, Interpol has been watching. Nevertheless, Carina uses her skill and savvy, combined with her unflinching devotion to her family, to seize control of the most powerful of Mafia groups and survive to tell her children her stunning story of strength and survival.
It's a very interesting book with lots of historical tidbits, cultural insights, and a unique viewpoint from the numerous other WWII and mafia books I have read. Definitely wish another narrator had read/performed the book, but despite his mostly soft monotone and pace, he's far far from the worst amongst Audible's "Never Should Have Been Recorded" list.
On the whole, I enjoyed the book. There were parts l wished had been fleshed out a lot more and others I wish the author had skimmed. With all the WWII and mafia books, it's very easy to get caught up in the action, adventure, mystery, and of course, the intrigue; however, this book reminds us of the other side - the civilian side of a country struggling before war and then its occupation by 2 different foreign powers. We see their suffering and trials without becoming overly bogged down in the horror of war's collateral damage.
Carina is definitely a character and one I wouldn't mind having a cup of tea with.
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