All’s Fair in Love and War: “The Italian Prisoner”

Burgundy Bend Press recently announced the release of “The Italian Prisoner,” a work of historical fiction written by Elisa M. Speranza. Set in the Sicilian community of New Orleans’ French Quarter, the novel illuminates a true but little-known story involving Italian prisoners of war on the U.S. home front during WWII. “The Italian Prisoner” is an engrossing tale of wartime love, family secrets, and a young woman’s struggle to chart her own course at an inflection point in American history. The book was a finalist in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition for a novel-in-progress in 2019.

The novel’s protagonist Rose lives with her Sicilian immigrant parents and helps in the family grocery store as WWII rages overseas. Rose knows she’s expected to marry a local boy and start a family, but she secretly dreams of being more like her fiercely independent widowed godmother. Behind her parents’ backs, Rose lands a job at the shipyard, where she feels free and important for the first time in her life. When the parish priest organizes a goodwill mission to visit Italian prisoners of war at a nearby military base, Rose falls for Sal, a handsome and intelligent POW. Italy has switched sides in the war, so the POWs are allowed out to socialize, giving Rose and Sal a chance to grow closer. When Rose gets a promotion at work, she must make an agonizing choice: follow a traditional path or keep working after the war and live on her own terms.

“The repercussions of WWII are lovingly rendered through one woman’s story, with an endearing cast of characters who all feel like family by the end,” says Lalita Tademy, New York Times best-selling author of Oprah’s Book Club pick “Cane River,” “Red River,” and “Citizens Creek.” 

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities published an article on the fascinating backstory in the Spring 2022 issue of 64 Parishes. Find out more at The book is available now for preorder from Indiebound, Bookshop, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and from local bookstores and libraries through Ingram.

Elisa M. Speranza is a writer based in New Orleans, Louisiana and Oak Bluffs, MA. This is her first novel.