A Thread of Grace by Maria Doria Russell
Another incredible read. I've been really lucky so far this year with my selections. The novel includes in an interview in the back, and Russell says she was inspired by a nonfiction book to write this story. Unfortunately, I've misplaced all three of the novels I finished while in Berlin and can't figure out where I put them when I took them out of the bag which is driving me crazy because two of them were great novels, and the other was okay, but part of a series. And I also think I might want to read the book she refers to but it's kind of hard to get the title without the novel. Okay, calm breath.
The novel has a large cast of characters, and spans from September 1943 to the end of World War II. It deals with the fate and treatment of the Jews in Italy. Unlike many of the other countries under Nazi occupation, the Italians were a lot more willing to help and protect their fellow countrymen, and even hid Jews from other parts of Europe that had emigrated there. Many of the priests also played an integral part in this despite the church's official position. Some of the characters include native Italian Jews and refugees as well as various Italian Catholics that either helped discretely or became actual partisans in the fight. While overall, the story is very hopeful and uplifting, Russell is unafraid to kill off many of her most interesting and colorful characters. While fewer Jews may have died in Italy than other countries, the losses are still heartbreaking. Also, the way some of the heroes are dealt with in the end in the confusion of the aftermath was incredibly sad.
The novel also explores ideas of guilt and responsibility, and has two characters specifically that have problems dealing with their conscience. Overall, it was a great look at how the war affected people, and how it was possible for people to band together under the Nazis and attempt to resist them.