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A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell
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A Thread of Grace (2005)

by Mary Doria Russell

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September 1943: Italians have severed ties with Germany but that does not mean there is peace. Jewish refugees have crossed the Alps seeking asylum and found a makeshift sanctuary that teeters on the edge of danger for everyone in the small mountainside village. Who can they trust? Will their secret be discovered?

This book hooked me at the start and then lost my attention in the middle, before getting me back near the end. I realized near the end that the narrative seemed rather stilted and flat— one short statement after another, strung along to present a scene with little emotion. Yes the story is intriguing and sad but the way it was presented did not resonate with me. Dialog was fine, but it was the in between. The writing was very detailed but I could not connect with the characters-- and there were a lot of them to follow. I know many loved this people loved this book, it was not a bad book but just not for me. ( )
  Shuffy2 | Nov 1, 2016 |
Read twice. Just as good second time ( )
  mgriel | Sep 5, 2016 |
I have never read a book by Mary Doria Russell that I did not love, and this one is no exception. I already knew that Russell was an extraordinary historical researcher who combined meticulous details of the past with unforgettable characters, as she did in The Sparrow and Doc, to name two of my favorites.

This book tells the story of Jewish refugees in northern Italy during the final months of World War II. The Nazi regime is in its death throes, but that only increases the urgency of the Jewish extermination it has been carrying out. What they weren't counting on was the warm-hearted Italians, who had lived in harmony with Jews for many decades. They bravely defied the orders of their Nazi occupiers and risked their own lives to hide as many Jews as possible among their farms, churches, and convents. Native Italian Jews, as well as Jews fleeing from the Nazi threat all over Europe, found sanctuary in the mountains and valleys of the Piedmont region.

This book is fiction, but much of it is based on true stories. And so you probably know going in that there won't be a lot of happy endings, even for those who survive the end of the war. But Russell never fails to slip some hope in among the despair, a thread of grace in the tapestry of pain that was created. This book, these characters, will stay with me for a long time. ( )
  rosalita | Aug 28, 2016 |
Set in Italy during the dramatic finale of World War II - it is September 8, 1943, and fourteen-year-old Claudette Blum is learning Italian with a suitcase in her hand. She and her father are among the thousands of Jewish refugees scrambling over the Alps toward Italy, where they hope to be safe at last, now that the Italians have broken with Germany and made a separate peace with the Allies. The Blums will soon discover that Italy is anything but peaceful, as it becomes overnight an open battleground among the Nazis, the Allies, resistance fighters, Jews in hiding, and ordinary Italian civilians trying to survive.

This is not a Jewish Holocaust story, rather it is a novel based on the events happening in Italy from 1944 to the end of the war. The characters are a variety of citizens, clergy and resistance not one segment of more importance than another. I felt I had to finish this book once I started though at times I didn't like it. ( )
  Bettesbooks | Jun 4, 2016 |
Set in Italy during the dramatic finale of World War II, this new novel is the first in seven years by the bestselling author of The Sparrow and Children of God. It is September 8, 1943, and fourteen-year-old Claudette Blum is learning Italian with a suitcase in her hand. She and her father are among the thousands of Jewish refugees scrambling over the Alps toward Italy, where they hope to be safe at last, now that the Italians have broken with Germany and made a separate peace with the Allies. The Blums will soon discover that Italy is anything but peaceful, as it becomes overnight an open battleground among the Nazis, the Allies, resistance fighters, Jews in hiding, and ordinary Italian civilians trying to survive. Mary Doria Russell sets her first historical novel against this dramatic background, tracing the lives of a handful of fascinating characters. Through them, she tells the little-known but true story of the network of Italian citizens who saved the lives of forty-three thousand Jews during the war's final phase.
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
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Alla mia famiglia, with thanks to Susa and Tomek, who made me reach for more.
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A simple answer to a simple question.
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Book description
It is September 8, 1943, and fourteen year old Claudette Blum and her father are among the thousands of Jewish refugees scrambling over the Alps toward Italy, where they hope to find safety now that the Italians have broken from Germany and made a seperate peace with the Allies. The Blums will son discover that Italy is anthing but peaceful, as it quickly becomes an open battleground for the Nazis, the Allies, Resistance fighters, Jews in hiding, and ordinary Italian civilians trying to survive. Tracing the lives of a handful of fascinating characters - a charismatic Italian Resistance leader, a priest, an Italian rabbi's family, a disillusioned German doctor - Mary Doria Russell tells the little-known story of the vast underground effort by Italian citizens who saved the lives of 43,000 Jews during the final phase of World War II. A "Thread of Grace" puts a human face on history.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0449004139, Paperback)

Mary Doria Russell's extraordinary and complex historical novel, A Thread of Grace, is the kind of book that you will find yourself haunted by long after finishing the last page. It opens with a group of Jewish refugees being escorted to safe-keeping by Italian soldiers. After making the arduous journey over a steep mountain pass, they are welcomed into a small village with warm food and clean beds. They have barely laid their heads to rest when news is received that Mussolini has just surrendered Italy to Hitler, putting them in danger yet again. This opening sequence is a grim foreshadowing of the heart-breaking journey these characters will experience in their struggle for survival.

The rich fictional narrative is woven through the factual military maneuvers and political games at the end of WW II, sharing a little-known story of a group of Italian citizens that sheltered more than 40,000 Jews from grueling work camp executions. Rather than the bleak and hopeless feeling that might be expected, the novel has the opposite effect; it reminds us that just as there will always be war, crime, and death, so too will there be good people who selflessly sacrifice themselves to ease the suffering of others. Perhaps best of all, Russell succinctly opens and closes her writing with short pieces that bookend the story with the force of a freight train. Her moving finale wraps up her narrative in the present day, with a death bed scene that's sure to rip the heart out of readers of every faith and ancestry.

On the surface, Russell's third novel may seem quite different from her earlier works. Both The Sparrow and its sequel, Children of God , were futuristic stories about Earth's first contact with alien life forms, but a closer look reveals several similarities. Fans of her earlier books will be pleased to find that Emilio Sandoz, the charismatic Jesuit priest from the first two books, finds new life in Renzo Leoni--A Thread of Grace's charming and haunted chameleon. The two have different circumstances and histories, but both characters are made of the same cloth--tormented by their consciences and plagued by unrequited love. Also similar to her earlier books, the characters in A Thread of Grace don't all enjoy a happy ending. A note in the reader's guide tells us that Russell flipped a coin to determine the fate of some of the characters. This may be upsetting for many readers, particularly those used to Hollywood endings, but it does serve as a frank reminder of the arbitrary nature of war and death. --Victoria Griffith

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:04 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

It is September 8, 1943, and fourteen-year-old Claudette Blum is learning Italian with a suitcase in her hand. She and her father are among the thousands of Jewish refugees scrambling over the Alps toward Italy, where they hope to be safe at last, now that the Italians have broken with Germany and made a separate peace with the Allies. The Blums will soon discover that Italy is anything but peaceful, as it becomes overnight an open battleground among the Nazis, the Allies, resistance fighters, Jews in hiding, and ordinary Italian civilians trying to survive. Based on the little-known but true story of the network of Italian citizens who saved the lives of forty-three thousand Jews during the war's final phase.… (more)

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