September 1, 2020

Eter­nal is the cul­mi­na­tion of a life­time of #1 best­seller, Lisa Scot­to­line’s work. She has been research­ing the Ital­ian Holo­caust since her under­grad­u­ate days when she took an inti­mate year-long sem­i­nar at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia led by Philip Roth called The Lit­er­a­ture of the Holo­caust.” She was inspired to write about Fas­cism and the Holo­caust in Italy some­day espe­cial­ly as the Ital­ian Holo­caust remains untold in pop­u­lar fiction.

Elis­a­bet­ta, Mar­co, and San­dro grow up as the best of friends despite their dif­fer­ences. Elis­a­bet­ta dreams of becom­ing a nov­el­ist; Mar­co the brash and ath­let­ic son in a fam­i­ly of pro­fes­sion­al cyclists; and San­dro a kind-heart­ed Jew­ish math­e­mat­ics prodi­gy. Their friend­ship blos­soms to love, with both San­dro and Mar­co hop­ing to win Elis­a­bet­ta’s heart.

As anti­semitism takes legal root and World War II erupts, they real­ize 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. Eter­nal is a heart­break­ing sto­ry of both the best and the worst that the world has to offer.

Discussion Questions

>p>Courtesy of Put­nam Books 
  1. Eter­nal opens with Elisabetta’s sto­ry, and the pro­logue rais­es the ques­tion of the pater­ni­ty of her son. Did that mat­ter to you as you read along and, if so, how? Did you keep it in mind or for­get about it? What do you think hap­pens to Elis­a­bet­ta and her fam­i­ly after the novel’s end? How do you think her son will react to learn­ing his mother’s and father’s secrets?

  2. At the begin­ning of Eter­nal, Scot­to­line quotes the late Ital­ian nov­el­ist Ignazio Silone, who said, Let every­one, then, have the right to tell his sto­ry in his own way.” Why is it so impor­tant for Elis­a­bet­ta to tell her own sto­ry — and, par­tic­u­lar­ly, to write it? Isn’t everyone’s life sto­ry com­pelling in some way? Did you ever have the urge to write or tell yours, if only for your­self and your fam­i­ly? Do you ever wish you knew more about the life sto­ry of your own parents

  3. If you read the Author’s Note, you learned that some of the inci­dents in Eter­nal were inspired by true events that took place in Mussolini’s ven­ten­nio and World War II. This applies to the hor­rif­ic events as well as the inspir­ing ones. Were you aware of these events before read­ing the nov­el? Did any of the his­tor­i­cal events sur­prise you? Did know­ing that many of the novel’s events are true shape the way you felt about what you had read? And how about the char­ac­ters based on actu­al his­tor­i­cal fig­ures? Did they inter­est you and, if so, why?

  4. How do Sandro’s and Marco’s feel­ings for Elis­a­bet­ta trans­form over the course of the nov­el? Why do you believe that each of them fell in love with her? What was their ulti­mate expres­sion of this love? Do you think that Elis­a­bet­ta end­ed up with the right” per­son? Whom would you choose?

  5. Eter­nal is a nov­el about fam­i­lies, too. Com­pare and con­trast the par­ents of Mar­co, Elis­a­bet­ta, and San­dro. Each par­ent faced their own strug­gles and made what could be con­sid­ered mis­takes while rais­ing their chil­dren, as all par­ents do. How were the three main char­ac­ters affect­ed by them? Why do you think their par­ents each made the deci­sions that they did?

  6. How does Marco’s atti­tude toward the Fas­cist par­ty change? What attract­ed him to their ethos? Or do you think he was indoc­tri­nat­ed into their belief sys­tem? Love of coun­try is beau­ti­ful, but when does it turn ugly? When does fan­dom turn into a cult of per­son­al­i­ty? Why did Marco’s broth­ers take a dif­fer­ent view? Take a look at the dif­fer­ent events that bring about the trans­for­ma­tion in Marco’s loy­al­ties dur­ing Eter­nal.

  7. The father/​son con­flict between Beppe and Mar­co, and between Mas­si­mo and San­dro, helps and hurts all four men, and the mother/​daughter con­flict between Ser­a­fi­na and Elis­a­bet­ta shapes Elis­a­bet­ta in many ways. Is that still true, or have mod­ern psy­chol­o­gy and times affect­ed our view of the parent/​child relationship?

  8. Rome is prac­ti­cal­ly a char­ac­ter in Eter­nal; we get to expe­ri­ence the cul­ture, atmos­phere, and feel of the city. Dis­cuss your impres­sions of the set­ting, and of how Rome impacts each of the char­ac­ters. How is the sto­ry influ­enced by a feel­ing of com­mu­ni­ty — or, at oth­er times, of iso­la­tion? How is com­mu­ni­ty” built in the novel?

  9. Is there a hero in Eter­nal? Is there a vil­lain? How do our per­cep­tions of heroes” and vil­lains” change through­out the read? How do each of the main char­ac­ters show brav­ery dur­ing the occu­pa­tion of Rome or at oth­er times? What do you think con­sti­tutes hero­ism dur­ing wartime?

  10. So much has been writ­ten about World War II in fic­tion, but how is Eter­nal dif­fer­ent? Did you learn any­thing new about the Holo­caust? Addi­tion­al­ly, why is it so impor­tant to tell the sto­ries of the Jew­ish fam­i­lies who died dur­ing the Nazi raid on the Ghet­to and the sub­se­quent deportations?

  11. A major dif­fer­ence between Fas­cism in Italy and Nazism in Ger­many is that Fas­cism did not begin as anti-Semit­ic, as the nov­el shows. What oth­er sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences do you see? Were you sur­prised to learn that Hitler imi­tat­ed Mus­soli­ni and not the oth­er way around? How can an entire pop­u­la­tion lose its way so pro­found­ly? Do you under­stand it bet­ter as a result of the book, or not?

  12. Dis­cuss the mean­ing of the quote near the end of Eter­nal: Hate was eter­nal, but above all, so was love.” Take a look at this quote in the con­text of each of the sur­viv­ing char­ac­ters’ lives and actions.