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Official Review: Begging for Chocolates by Richard Allison

Please use this sub-forum to discuss any non-fiction books such as autobiographies or political commentary books.

Official Review: Begging for Chocolates by Richard Allison

Post Number:#1 by kislany
» 25 Sep 2017, 09:44

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Begging for Chocolates" by Richard Allison.]

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4 out of 4 stars
Review by kislany
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Begging for Chocolates: A Story of WWII in Italy by Richard Allison is an intimate look at a dark time in the history of mankind, concentrating on the American involvement in defeating the Nazis in Italy during World War II.

Captain William "Bill" Allison, Specialist 4th Class Sergeant John L. "Jack" King, Captain John M. Lesesne, and First Lieutenant Richard E. "Dick" Stroud were just some of the Americans stationed in Italy between November 1944 and May 1945. The author brings to life these people's experiences through their personal letters, diaries, and poems to give the readers insights into what was going on in Italy during that time. The author, Richard Allison, is Bill Allison's second-born son. He was actually born during the time Bill was stationed in Italy. While the narrative constantly switches between the main characters’ points of view, Bill’s ponderings are the ones the author is mostly focusing on, which is understandable.

Bill was desperate to go back home to his wife, Dotty, and his son. Christmas and New Year without his family was almost unbearable. The letters received from Dotty and his parents were often the highlight of his entire day. During World War II, letters from home routinely experienced long delays. In return, military personnel could only write about personal things and could mention nothing about affairs of war, or anything that would give away secrets regarding their location to the enemy.

The stories really came to life through the insights, reflections, and musings written by the soldiers while waiting in their barracks for action. They are touching and make us aware that Europe got a lot of help from outside as well. That help included real people with lives put on hold back at home in America.

The photos added throughout the chapters were well chosen: photos or sketches of Bill, Jack, Dick, and John; photos of places (like the streets of Naples during the war); maps of strategic battle locations; and drawings of major events like the Passover Seeder Services, a Jewish ritual feast held at the train station in Florence in March 1945. Seeing the faces of the main characters made me feel I actually knew them. Photos depicting poor Italians shuffling on a street in Naples really conveyed the anguish and pain Italians felt before they were finally liberated.

There were two interesting emotional issues that Bill pointed out regarding the involvement of American soldiers in Europe during that particular time. First, white Americans were not best friends with African-Americans taking part in the same war. And second, American soldiers' attitude towards Italians was quite disdainful.

And here is the result of such a situation:

I soon became aware of two interesting phenomena. First, that the Italian people had suffered a great deal and second, that our troops [African-Americans] had a great deal of empathy for them. The Italian people recognized this and they immediately developed a wonderful rapport which did not exist in the same intensity between the Italians and the white troops.


For many readers, the book is a real eye-opener about America’s important involvement in the war. Most books on the topic detail the Resistance movement, or describe the horrible conditions in the various concentration camps (Dachau or Auschwitz come to mind), or are personal memoirs like Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. I realize now that a book such as Begging for Chocolates: A Story of WWII in Italy had to be also written.

Regarding grammar, I haven't found any major errors, which means the book is well written and professionally edited. I wouldn’t worry about any grammatical or spelling mistakes within the letters or diary entries themselves, as those documents are now part of history. I give Begging for Chocolates: A Story of WWII in Italy 4 out of 4 stars with a nod to the unsung heroes who came to life in this book, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about the last days of World War II or enjoys reading biographies and books on American history.

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Re: Official Review: Begging for Chocolates by Richard Allis

Post Number:#2 by kandscreeley
» 26 Sep 2017, 15:03

This is definitely a different side of WWII. It is important that we see all sides of it. Sounds like a really good book. Thanks!
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Re: Official Review: Begging for Chocolates by Richard Allis

Post Number:#3 by LivreAmour217
» 26 Sep 2017, 15:10

This book sounds like it offers a unique perspective on World War II. I don't think that there is much material out there that talks about Italy's role in the conflict, or how the country fared afterward. Great job on this review!
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Re: Official Review: Begging for Chocolates by Richard Allis

Post Number:#4 by Snowflake
» 26 Sep 2017, 17:11

Thanks for the review, it really gives some insight into the book. The points you made about it being another side of WWII are interesting. This really isn't a genre I enjoy though so I probably won't follow up on this one.
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Re: Official Review: Begging for Chocolates by Richard Allis

Post Number:#5 by Zelinda
» 26 Sep 2017, 19:14

Good review! At first I wasn't interested in reading this book, but I was very interested after I read the quote you included. I'm Italian American and was happy to read of the Italians acceptance of African Americans, and sad to hear of the white army members as being just the opposite, along with their having disdain of the Italians. Of course, I know that this is only one perspective, but I have experienced enough of it in my own life to be intrigued by what the book might have to say.
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Re: Official Review: Begging for Chocolates by Richard Allis

Post Number:#6 by Miriam Molina
» 26 Sep 2017, 19:15

I wonder why the title is so. Were chocolates banned in Italy during the war? Who begged, the soldiers or the Italian children? I bet a lot of millennials will be aghast at the possibility of "no more chocolates!"

Thanks, Kislany, for this enlightening review of WWII!

-- 26 Sep 2017, 19:21 --

Zelinda wrote:Good review! At first I wasn't interested in reading this book, but I was very interested after I read the quote you included. I'm Italian American and was happy to read of the Italians acceptance of African Americans, and sad to hear of the white army members as being just the opposite, along with their having disdain of the Italians. Of course, I know that this is only one perspective, but I have experienced enough of it in my own life to be intrigued by what the book might have to say.


So that explains why your surname has "OUA" in it! (Or does it? I'm actually clueless about the origin of surnames.)
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Re: Official Review: Begging for Chocolates by Richard Allis

Post Number:#7 by MaryBurris
» 26 Sep 2017, 20:41

Great review! This is a non-fiction that I might actually read. You've enticed me with your description of the content and the characters. Gaining insight from letters and people from our history can be exciting to read.
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Re: Official Review: Begging for Chocolates by Richard Allis

Post Number:#8 by juliusotinyo
» 27 Sep 2017, 00:14

My family has a long history in warfare including WWII. I would get a copy for my dad. His dad, my grandpa, experienced racism while fighting the Japanese in the British army. He wrote his experiences in his diary that exists to this day.

The Burmese people showed Africans love when they noticed the white officers had none. They would smuggle the best meals and clean water to blacks during the occupation. I am genuinely interested in this book.
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Re: Official Review: Begging for Chocolates by Richard Allis

Post Number:#9 by kislany
» 27 Sep 2017, 01:03

@kandscreeley Yes, the book, indeed, shows a different aspect to WWII. It is a great book.

@LivreAmour217 Honestly, I haven't read one quite like this book either. And trust me, I've read a lot. Having my grandparents (especially my granddad) take part in this same war in Europe, I was always interested in reading war stories. That was, in fact, one reason why I grabbed this book when I saw it offered because it's something I have a deep interest in.

@Snowflake Thank you for coming by. It's definitely not for everyone.

@Zelinda As an Italian-American, yes, I think you will get a lot out of this book. It's a very interesting perspective, I agree.

@Miriam Molina I've watched numerous WWII related movies where chocolates and candies were one of the attraction points with children when American (or Ally) armies would come by. More often than not, the soldiers knew to have candies in their pockets, because that would make the poor, dirty, and malnourished local kids overjoyed, even if for a day. So yes, maybe I should have focused a bit more explaining the title, but for me, it was something I knew since a young age. Even my grandpa would tell me stories about distributing candies (less chocolate, but more candies because they are hard and small, and would fit better in their pockets), so I didn't realize not everyone was familiar with this tradition.

@MaryBurris Thank you for checking out my review. If you see it offered again, it's a book worth reading. I also enjoy the diary and letter style (there were even poems in the book!). Very cool.

@juliusotinyo I think this book would make a wonderful gift for your dad. My family also has a long history in WWII warfare. One of my grandparents fought in the war (in Romania) against the Nazis and the stories he would tell us in the 70s (when he was still alive) sometimes would chill you to the bone.
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Re: Official Review: Begging for Chocolates by Richard Allis

Post Number:#10 by mumoscar
» 27 Sep 2017, 01:14

My late grandfather worked in the navy during that time. I loved when he would gather his grandchildren to narrate the WWII happenings. This is a good book I would dig deeper for more information. Nice review.
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Re: Official Review: Begging for Chocolates by Richard Allis

Post Number:#11 by geoffrey ngoima
» 27 Sep 2017, 05:06

This would be a great addition to my historical WWII collection, a different perspective for sure. Good job with the review, I know it wasn't easy...
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Re: Official Review: Begging for Chocolates by Richard Allis

Post Number:#12 by The Researcher
» 27 Sep 2017, 06:49

Nice review Kislany! This book sure brings out another outlook towards the war.
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Re: Official Review: Begging for Chocolates by Richard Allis

Post Number:#13 by Mjgarrison
» 27 Sep 2017, 13:18

Wow, this sounds like an interesting story. Stories like these are always heartbreaking, but I enjoy hearing the personal experiences people went through during these hard times.
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Re: Official Review: Begging for Chocolates by Richard Allis

Post Number:#14 by Mercy Bolo
» 27 Sep 2017, 13:26

Thank you for your review. This is an interesting topic.
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Re: Official Review: Begging for Chocolates by Richard Allis

Post Number:#15 by kislany
» 28 Sep 2017, 11:05

@mumoscar I think you will find this book enjoyable then.

@geoffrey ngoima Yes, definitely is a well-worth addition to your WWII library. It shows a different, not so much talked about side of the war.

@The Researcher Thank you, indeed, there is another aspect to the war that the author successfully brings to surface.

@Mjgarrison Indeed, you are right. Thank you for the visit.

@Mercy Bolo Yes, I found it to be interesting as well :)
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