Flamingo, £12.99

If you enjoyed Louis de Bernieres' 'Captain Correlli's Mandolin', then 'Prince of the Clouds' is perfect for you. Translated from the Italian, and set in war time Italy and post-war Sicily, the book focuses on one man, Colonel Carlo Terzo, and a small group of friends.

Quite a boring little man, the Colonel is engrossed with the logistics of military strategy he has little time for anything else. His experience with women is limited also, a trait he envies in his friend Amedeo. A bookworm strategist, Terzo has never seen a man die in battle. He sees himself as a military failure. This sense of failure is compounded when his request to fight at the front during WW2 is denied. Instead he is to compile an encyclopedia of military strategy.

Life takes a turn for the better when he marries Emma, a beautiful, if mysterious Russian princess - she proposed to him. They move to Sicily and he soon becomes complicit in a secret romance between his student Salvatore, and Fiore, the daughter of a wicked landowner.

In a turn of events, it is Fiore's mother who provides Terzo with his first taste of battle. On a trip to the countryside his strategic learning is put to the test. He has to mastermind a plan to save his friends and a local band of rebels from certain death at the hands of a dual force of bandits and soldiers.

This is a poignant, yet witty tale, that begs you to fall in love with its characters. Author Gianni Riotta does himself no favours with his constant military allusions at the beginning of the book, but stick with it – it's worth it in the end.

Joanne Ahern