Day's debut novel, based on a true story, explores the Fascists' internment, just before World War II, of a group of young men they considered a dangerous moral contagion.
In early 1939, a group of gay men in the Sicilian city of Catania—most of them poor, many illiterate—are labeled as threats to the state and degenerates. The men are sent to the small, craggy island of San Domino, where they endure cramped and squalid dormitories, frequent headcounts, capricious beatings, and constant ridicule. Perhaps most painful of all is the way they're played against each other, denied the solace of solidarity. Instead, paranoia and mistrust reign. Who betrayed them to the police? Who's cooperating with the fascisti now? And, most of all, who is responsible for the killing, back in Catania, of their nemesis, a brutal cop named Rapetti—the crime that triggered the wave of arrests? Anyone who divulges the killer's identity, the authorities say, will be rewarded with instant release. The novel’s principals are Francesco, whose father disappeared a decade ago under circumstances that made the family adopt a false surname; Francesco's worldly older friend and lover, Emilio; the beautiful and flamboyant Gio, a boyhood pal and sometimes lover of Francesco whose jealousy could have terrible consequences; and a sheltered island girl named Elena, who, dreaming of escape to the mainland and a wider world, takes an interest in Francesco.
A harrowing story thoroughly researched and straightforwardly told.