Contessa and Ettore Saforo awake to a normal day in war-stricken, occupied Italy. By the end of the day, however, their house is in ruins and they must seek shelter and protection wherever they can. But the turbulent politics of 1944 refuses to let them be.
As Tito and his Yugoslav Army threaten their German-held town of Fiume, Ettore finds himself running for his life, knowing that neither side is forgiving of those who have assisted the enemy. His wife and children must also flee the meagre life their town can offer, searching for a better life as displaced persons.
Ettore and Contessa's battle to find each other, and the struggle of their family and friends to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of a devastating war, provide a rich and varied account of Italian migration to Australia after World War II.
What can you do when you have nowhere left to call home? Port of No Return considers this question and more in a novel that is full of action, pain and laughter - a journey you will want to see through to the very end.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Italian historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. I've had the pleasure of reading several very good novels of this genre these past few months and I now have another author of whom I've become a fan. Michelle Saftich has written a beautiful story of the Saforo family and Italians who once lived in Fiume, now a part of Yugoslavia, under the German rule during WWII. Right from the first page I was pulled into the story and I simply didn't want to put it down. I was so invested in these characters that came alive for me. I cared about them and wanted to know how they would survive when they lost everything and Ettore is hunted for having worked for the Germans to support his family. The losses are hard and Saftich paints a believable and realistic picture of war-torn Italy and the displacement camps, but it's the characters that stay with you. And among the despair is always the underlying hope that they will pull through. The children play a prominent role in the book and I liked that because it was realistic. Families in Italy had many children and the scenes with the children reminded me so much of the stories my aunt in Italy told me of her childhood during the war years. Best of all, the story flowed well and I enjoyed every moment of it. I've read many WWII stories but this was told from the perspective of displaced Italians and what finally led them to leave their beloved country. This is Saftich's impressive debut novel and I am highly anticipating her next novel. Although this story ends well, it does lend itself to a sequel and of course, I am eager to revisit the Saforo family. If you like WWII historical fiction and books set in Italy, don't miss this one! Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of this book for an honest review.
**I was provided with an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review** Port of No Return opens in January, 1944 in Fiume, Italy. At this time Fiume sits on the border with Yugoslavia. The Germans are still in Fiume, but the Yugoslavs under Tito are on their way. (There have been long territorial disputes over Fiume throughout history.) The taking of Fiume by the Yugoslavs was the result of days of heavy fighting. Reprisals under the occupying forces were savage. Initially we meet Contessa and Ettore, a young couple with two children and their indomitable Nonna. Ettore, a mechanic, must work for the Germans in their submarine base in order to support his family. When Tito’s forces invade he is automatically targeted , not only because he is Italian, but because he works for the Germans. Such is the fate of many Italians in Fiume. The story follows their hardships during wartime, separation and subsequent escape from Fiume. It is a survival story filled with courage, heartache, fear, yet ultimately happiness tinged with loss and grief. Port of No Return was a real surprise for me as I wasn’t sure how much I was going to enjoy it. This is historic fiction that “rings true” on many levels. Saftich writes well. There is a clear narrator’s voice throughout, something I usually don’t enjoy, however stylistically the tone of narration is easy going – at times, thanks to numerous colloquialisms, conversational . This narration informs the reader of historical events and tells the situation of the characters, but is interspersed with fictionalised vignettes between characters. This it what got me over my initial misgivings. It works brilliantly to give a feel of historical accuracy mixed with immersive storytelling to create a subtly addictive story. As I read I wondered why certain plot points were not expanded to aid the storytelling. However, the more I read, the more I realised Saftich was showing a delicate restraint and by resisting the urge to sensationalise Port of No Return I suspect she was honouring the memories of family and the others she has interviewed in researching her novel - kudos to her. Port of No Return lured me into its world. I became attached to the characters and their struggles. I found myself asking “What would I have done?” More importantly it made me think on history, its human toll and its repetition. That is part of the magic of books. Four Stars
When it comes to stories set during World War II, I am always more interested in those that focus on the plight of the civilians rather than the military experience. This is why I was drawn to this novel as it reflects some of what my own family experienced before my parents immigrated to Canada. The story is set in the north east area of Italy in a city named Fiume which became part of Yugoslavia, or today's Croatia. Through the experiences of two families, the author does a great job of introducing the hardships the civilians faced living under the auspices of danger and war and occupation. The loss of home, displaced refugees, unbearable acts of terror and cruelty, and the severe hunger caused by enemy seizures. It is how many Italians of that era found themselves contemplating relocation as refugees to safer havens such as Australia, Canada, or the U.S. In this novel, it is Australia they seek. Through the eyes of the protagonists, Ettore and Contessa, we experience the danger, the many kindnesses, the poignanat and painful moments of war. These characters represent thousands of Italians forced to flee their beloved homeland. The author did a wonderful job of describing the effects of the war, along with the history of how that area of Italy was affected. This novel is definitely a worth reading, especially for those whose roots are deeply embedded in Italy, like me! Recommended!