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A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell

A Thread of Grace (original 2005; edition 2005)

by Mary Doria Russell

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1,847775,659 (4.01)288
Title:A Thread of Grace
Authors:Mary Doria Russell
Info:Ballantine Books (2005), Paperback, 464 pages

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A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell (2005)


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Showing 1-5 of 77 (next | show all)
As usual, MDR provides an engrossing, multi-layered narrative full of complex characters caught up in moral quagmires, in a vivid historical setting. This is one of those books that the reader ought to approach only when time enough can be set aside to get thoroughly immersed in the multiple viewpoints. Disguise and alternative identities play a big role, and it was a bit daunting to keep everyone sorted at first. Having read and loved Russell's work before, I trusted her to make the effort worthwhile, and it was. A Thread of Grace winds through the satanic tapestry of the Nazi occupation of Italy during the last two years of WWII. Thousands of Jews, both Italian citizens and refugees from Eastern Europe, were protected by families in small towns and country villages in Italy throughout the war, and it is estimated that as many as 80% of the Jews who escaped through Italy across the Alps or hid "in plain sight" there survived. This novel is the story of some who did, some who did not, and the Italians who helped them. As painful to read as any account of those awful years, factual or fictional, this at least provides counterpoint to the depravity of the Nazi mindset. I say read it, even if it breaks your heart, because it is affirmative in many ways. ( )
  laytonwoman3rd | Feb 22, 2019 |
3.5 rounded to 4 out of 5. Fascinating well-written account of the heroic efforts of the Italian people to shelter, clothe, and protect Jews, both Italian and those fleeing from other parts of Europe during the German occupation of Italy during 1943-45. Those foreigners come through the Alps -- in winter, no less. We follow alternately, various strata of Italian society: mostly Catholic clergy and religious; simple contadini-- peasants; members of the Nazi military forces; and the refugees, mainly in the person of a rabbi and his family. We also follow a partisan brigade, fighting against both the Germans and against the fascists. This is an aspect of World War II I knew next to nothing about. This was a wonderful way to get some flavor of that time and place. The author took her story from various accounts she had read and heard, melding them together. A most moving account, this novel lays bare the nature of love and sacrifice. In the person of the remorseful German military doctor, Schramm, we are shown repentance in action. ( )
  janerawoof | Nov 16, 2018 |
rabck wishlist from judygreeneyes; historical fiction set in WWII Italy. Thankfully the author listed the characters in the beginning, including their alias names. Partisans are thwarting the German Army, and hiding the Jews that came over the mountains fleeing France. The novel begins with teenage Claudia crossing the mountains with her father, and ends with an elderly Claudia never speaking of her 2 years during the war with her children. They have no idea of Jewish Claudia's struggles, leadership in the Italian resistance & what she saw in the war. ( )
  nancynova | Jul 14, 2018 |
Audiobook performed by Cassandra Campbell

Russell’s third novel leaves space and the future, and instead looks back on WW2 and the Italian citizens who saved the lives of thousands of Jews; not only their neighbors but refugees coming from other countries. It opens in September 1943, with fourteen-year-old Claudette Blum and her father. They’ve already fled Belgium and are in Paris, when they need to move once again. This time they will cross the Alps on foot, led by an Italian soldier. Eventually they are taken in by a farm family and come to know the villagers in the area. As the war progresses over the next few years we meet a large cast of characters that includes a German doctor who regrets his past, an Italian rabbi and his family, a priest, a British paratrooper, and a charismatic Italian resistance leader.

What a story! Based on true incidents, Russell’s tale draws the reader into the lives of these many people. She gives us examples of true courage, from the fighters actively engaged in battle, to the grandmothers who carried messages or the Catholic nuns who sheltered Jewish children in large orphanages. I fell in love with these characters. Russell doesn’t sugarcoat the sacrifices and dangers they faced, nor does she make them saints.

They squabble, succumb to temptations, and waver in their determination. They are also courageous and fiercely resistant to the evils of the Nazis. Out manned and out gunned by the Germans, this “army” of citizens nevertheless shows discipline and ingenuity when fighting. Their huge advantage is their intimate knowledge of the terrain and their fierce loyalty to one another.

This is a war story, so I knew there would be death and destruction. Even though I expected this, some of these scenes brought me to tears. Russell tempers the sadness and horror with moments of great tenderness and even humor.

I was lucky that I chose to listen to this audiobook while on a long road trip. I finished the 17-hours of listening in two day’s driving. Cassandra Campbell does a superb job performing the audiobook. She is a gifted voice artist and really brought the story and these characters to life. ( )
  BookConcierge | Apr 30, 2018 |
I had to put this one down. Too many tangles in terms of characters and I just wasn't in the mood. I might try it again at another date.
  HardcoverHearts | Mar 24, 2018 |
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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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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