Vango - Between Sky and Earth

By Timothee De Fombelle

1. The book is set in the 1930s and is about a nineteen year old called Vango, who grew up in Nazi Germany. Vango is brought up by his nanny Mademoiselle and doesn't know much about his past, although before the war begins he finds out that his past may have something to do with Europe's history. He has one friend who is a priest called Zefiro. Vango decides to help Zefiro by going to Paris to take holy orders, but it falsely accused of a crime he hadn't committed. The story is about him racing against time to prove his innocence and to also uncover secrets of his past. By the end of this book Vango still seems mysterious as there is no proper end to it, and the story continues on in its sequel.

I really enjoyed reading this book as it had a mixture of genres from thriller to historical. Every page was very gripping and interesting. The book had an equal amount of thriller and mystery to it as well as historical. It is a long thrilling adventure story that skips between different time zones, but it is always easy to follow. I didn't find this book very challenging to read, as there wasn't a wide range of vocabulary. I would definitely recommend this book to children aged between 12 and 14.

By Sharukaa

2. This book is about Vango Romano, an Italian ‘fugitive' fleeing from France because of a crime he didn't commit, he goes to Germany to the Graf Zeppelin; However, Vango is fleeing from an altogether more terrifying foe, his unknown past. Vango must attempt to uncover the secrets of his past, before the threat of war becomes a reality and everything is lost forever.

This book is a brilliantly told story of love, crime and mystery; it is set in pre-WWII Europe. And is set in a past and present format, it keeps to the present, but then it goes back to the past as if someone is remembering, it seems to be written in a journalistic format like someone has written memoirs in the third person. I think this is a brilliant story and cannot wait for the upcoming sequel. I recommend this book to anyone interested in mystery, and to ages 12+.

By Megan

3. Vango between sky and earth, by Timmothee De Fombelle and translated by Sarah Ardizzone, is an intriguing and mysterious novel. It is set in 1930's Europe- it is difficult to place an exact date and setting due to the great amount of time covered and vast expanses traveled- and follows the story of the enigmatic Vango, an orphan from the Aeolian islands, as he travels the world whilst serendipitously discovering who he is and why he is being chased.

The 1930's were a time of great social and political unrest, and this is reflected well in the book; for example, the depictions of Nazi and Soviet foreign policies. Multiple locales are explored and give a good flavour to the differing societies and ideologies of the era- from communism and the soviet spy network to Nazi propaganda and oppression. The adventure starts in the cosmopolitan streets of Paris, underneath the looming cathedral of Notre Dame. We are then taken on a heart pounding journey across Parisian rooftops, through the skies in the dominant Graf Zeppellin and finally ending up in the Scottish highlands. This gives the reader the sense of exploration and discovery which keeps you attached to the story.

The main character may be the strange Vango but the writer gives us a great cast of characters, both historical and fiction, that are all as equally elusive and interesting. From the legendary airship designer Hugo Eckener, the designer of the aforementioned Graf Zeppellin and infamous Hindenburg, to the beautiful and independent Ethel; all of these are perfectly written into the story to such an extent that the historical characters, like Eckener, are difficult to imagine without Vango and the fictional characters, like Ethel, seem almost real.

The book also expertly documents historical events whilst making them seamlessly part of the story and yet does not concentrate on these to the detriment of all else. For example the nationalization of the Zeppellin company. As I've previously mentioned the writer also does an amazing job of integrating historical figures into the story. However, one of the most extraordinary features of the book is its attention to detail. Almost every person who should be at X location when we visit there is present, a good example being the documentation of the people on the April 1934 Graf Zeppellin Germany-Brazil flight. It is truly one of the writer's greatest assets in terms of authoring historical fiction.

When I was reading the novel it never occurred to me that it was a translation. It was only upon examining the front cover did I find this out. This demonstrates the skill the translator, Sarah Ardizzone, has for this line of work. Not only has she translated the language, but the culture and ideas of the book to something more digestible to an English reader.

In conclusion, I would highly recommend this book to anyone, whether their interested in history or not. It is a fascinating and gripping story that immerses oneself into the setting. It is a great work that is wonderfully written and magnificently translated. A must read!  

By Adam

4. This is a beautifully produced book which would make a stunning film.  Whereas some books suck you into the story this one leaves you watching the action unfold from the sidelines, as if you were watching a film.  The interwar years make an unusual focus for a story, a period of history often overlooked by writers.  The writing style is beautiful and simple, even in translation, and allows the reader to focus on the action unfolding and the vast scope of the story which catapults the reader across Europe from Paris to Germany via London, Scotland and the Soviet Union.  Somehow the author creates unusual images and manages to say so much in very few words:  "All around, the city seemed to be gathering its thoughts", "the swallows flew in arabesques around Vango".  The inclusion of maps, diagrams, cross sections and timelines add very convincingly to the period feel of the book.

Although the speech of the characters seems very modern at times, including real historic figures in the story such as Vango's Zeppelin rescuer, Eckener, Stalin and his daughter, only increases  the sense of authenticity which permeates this amazing and original book.  The flashbacks too add a cinematic feel while adding to the immediacy of the action.   This isn't a book we would have chosen to pick up but we're pleased we did and will definitely watch out for other books by this incredibly talented author.

By Cramlington Learning Village, Northumberland

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