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A Thread of Grace

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  8,867 ratings  ·  1,096 reviews
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, w
ebook, 414 pages
Published February 1st 2005 by Random House (first published December 6th 2004)
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Some of the best scenes in literature:

1. The Idiot - mock execution

2. Macbeth - Act 5; Scene 5 - Macbeth's world is crashing around
him when he hears of his wife's death. He remarks, laconically, "She
should have died hereafter," and then delivers what might be the most perfect lines in literature:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, bri
Once again, I have an outstanding work of historical fiction to thank for teaching me about a time, events, places and people I knew virtually nothing about—that I didn’t realize I wanted to know anything about. Mary Doria Russell, with her uncanny ability to wring gorgeous stories out of dry facts, brings wartime Italy to my living room.

In the fall of 1943, Italy surrenders to the Allies and thousands of Jewish refugees from across the diaspora pour into the country, just as German occupation
I simply loved this moving rendering of life in northern Italy during the long period of Nazi occupation after Mussolini stepped down. It is the story of two families of Jewish refugees who hide out in the mountains with the support of Italian peasants and poorly equipped partisan fighters of diverse origins. The tale is well researched and very satisfying in revealing the strengths of a community and the ability of the human heart to thrive under great challenges.

At the beginning of the narrati
I read this book during the holiday season but find myself thinking about various scenes at odd moments. I'll be brushing my teeth, and suddenly, I'll be on the Ligurian coast of Italy while a German deserter confesses to the local priest that he is responsible for over 91,000 deaths. I'll be on the edge of sleep, and as I close my eyes I'll see a toddler learning to walk when suddenly the bombs start to drop. I'll be driving and will be visited by one of the kind visions of an Italian soldier w ...more
Lewis Weinstein
A fantastic story of Italian resistance during WWII, including the incredibly brave efforts of Italian Catholics to save Jews. Beautifully written. Emotional. Well researched.

The story begins when Italy surrenders to the Allies, which is followed immediately by a brutal German occupation, which in turn triggers further Allied ground attacks and bombing. Russell brilliantly presents the grinding unrelenting pressure caused by this series of events, including the fanatical pursuit of Jews by the G
Ben Babcock
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lisa Vegan
Oct 11, 2008 Lisa Vegan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who enjoy fine novels, historical fiction novels, World War II history
What I loved:

For once I was able to thoroughly enjoy a historical fiction book without wondering what was real and what was fiction.

This is a character driven story and everyone in the book seemed genuine. I especially enjoyed the poignant sensibilities of the children and adolescents.

I’m a sucker for maps and this book had a map of real places and one of fictional places that were within the real map’s area. There was also a handy characters list at the front of the book. I found myself refe
I stayed up until after midnight last night finishing this. I started out listening to it on tape and got half way finished and it was on hold for someone so I had to turn it in and get the book. The narrator did a great job with the French, German, and Italian accents. Russell is so smart. She weaves the fictitious characters and places with historical fact and makes a beautiful and difficult story. This novel is very character-driven. I wondered about the characters when I wasn’t reading abou ...more
This was very interesting at times, but most of the time I just read in a state of confusion. Way too many characters and way too many plotlines. This book needed some careful editing, and perhaps it could have been 2 stories or the historical parts written a bit more clearly. I can't quite put my finger on what it was that didn't work, but having read many WWII books, this one just didn't cut it for me.
There is no Status entry for RIP - but that is what this fine book is now doing. It met its d
Mary Doria Russell has enchanted me with several of her books. When I started this, I was hoping to be enchanted. I actually put it aside for a bit, because it wasn't hitting the mark for me. But then, a few days later, the characters kept calling me, so I picked it up again, and was swept into a view of WWII of which I was embarrassingly ignorant. This was a beautifully written story of the plight of those Jews in Italy, either by birth or immigration/escape, and of the patriots who fought agai ...more
sobbed through her earlier books, and this is no exception. Set during WWII, with many jewish main characters, Russell nevertheless avoids the obvious tragedies (although there are oblique mentions to the events in other countries) in order to concentrate on hearts, minds, and shattering illusions. She has an obvious love and understanding of her characters, and so even the most horrifying come across as realistic, almost sympathetic. Her plot is complex and interweaves many disparate elements w ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
First, I inferred from the GR description that this is the story of Claudette Blum. It also states there are a handful of characters. Claudette is one of dozens of characters and, although the story returns to her throughout the book, I think there are others who appeared more prominently and importantly in the narrative. I only say this so that you might rely less on the GR description than on many of the other fine reviews here.

We often hear of the French resistance. Why not the Italian resist
Linda Robinson
On the ground, a drunk, coughing German officer, a girl of 14 with green eyes, dapper Italian grappa lover with a taste for costuming, his mother, a quiet village rabbi's family. It is 1943-44 in Northern Italy after il Duce has left the country and everyone else moved in. German squads with tanks, carbinieri, patriots, loyalists, traitors, Communists, villagers, farmers, deserters, priests, Jewish refugees; and overhead, American, British, German planes drop bombs on monasteries and mountain re ...more
Jun 05, 2010 Barbara rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Barbara by: Chris B
Shelves: holocaust-ww-2
There are numerous novels relating to WWII, but few compare to the obviously well-researched saga by Mary Doria Russell. Previously, most of my associated reading on this subject was centered on other European or Asian countries, but this book is focused on Italy's mountainous regions, with its small hamlets, isolated towns and farmlands. Throughout the narrative, Russell has traced the activities of fascinating characters, powerfully interspersed with the general impact of the war. The major th ...more
A Thread of Grace. Mary Doria Russell. 2005. Random House. 430 pages. ISBN 0375501843.

A Thread of Grace is Mary Doria Russell's third novel and first historical fiction piece set against the backdrop of 1943 Europe.

Claudette Blum is a young, teenage Jewish girl escaping with her father and other refugees to Italy with no foresight or knowledge that thair lives are about to become much more endangered. Through a handful of diverse characters and personalities, Russell tells of how numerous Itali
The story of partisans fighting in northern Italy during the last two years of World War II. This really is a beautiful tapestry of a book. Lots of characters—the voice doesn’t change, but they each illustrate different stories in this tiny, mountainous place.

Renzo Leoni is the most compelling, the most cinematic, the most unforgettable. He’s a former pilot, trying to drink away his own feelings of guilt. He’s an intelligent, multi-layered hero, and the banter between him and his smart, unconve
A 4.5 stars effort. A rich and complex (and at times, not so easy to follow) portrayal of both historical and fictional events that take place in northwest Italy (in real and made-up locations) during WWII and the Nazi era. Though it is a little difficult to get into this book initially, those who are able to do it will enjoy a cast of memorable and well-developed characters and powerful ideas about what it is to be a human, especially in a time of crisis. Though not as nearly funny as Catch-22, ...more
I will admit that this is a tough read, and thank goodness for the character list in the front to keep everyone straight.
With that said, this book is amazing. Pure and simple. Of the many books I have read about WWII in Europe, Russell’s book is set apart in subject matter and writing style. I found the setting in Northern Italy fascinating, as we seem to hear very little of this area of German Occupation. Also, the role of the Italian resistance, Catholic Church, and peasant farmers, was new in
A wonderful book. It was so engaging, I often forgot that I was reading a book and felt more like I was in the story. While I have read a lot of WWII fiction, I had not read anything about WWII Italy and the Partisan uprising against the Nazi regime, which invaded Italy after the Italian armistice. The book features a huge cast of characters (Russell was thoughtful enough to include a cast of characters at the beginning of the book so I didn't get too lost) - there are a couple of "main" charact ...more
Apr 11, 2008 Danika rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
I'll admit this is not an easy read (on several levels). For one, It starts with pages of maps and character descriptions. It's also not the most uplifting topic. It covers roughly the last 18 months of WWII in Northern Italy. Follows the Italians in the region, the Jews many of them were hiding/helping and the German soldiers. Despite the content, I did not find it bleak. It certainly wasn't uplifting, but it was a fascinating look at a specific part of history I didn't know much about. Charact ...more
I have read 2 books by this author before this one. I liked them both. Her books always seem to take a fair amount of research. She does that well. Authenticity hasn't been a problem with her. I also enjoy her characters. They are purposeful and well drawn.

The main problem I had with this book was not only the number of characters parading through this, but the multiple story lines. There was so much going on. Usually I don't mind that. But this was a book a wasn't able to sit down and read in o
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This is a truly beautiful story about Italian peasants willing to risk their own lives and go hungry in order to shelter and feed Jewish refugees during WWII. It also gives some grim insight about the reality of guerrilla warfare among the Italian partisans during this time.
Heartwarming but also realistically heartbreaking. Not only a good story, but I learned a lot, too.
I would have given this book four stars except that the book is written in the present tense, which makes it a lot harder for
Sep 17, 2007 Ellis rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of historical fiction
Shelves: fiction, history
Mary Doria Russell is an absolute favorite of mine. I was enthralled by "The Sparrow" and "Children of God" so you can imagine how thrilled I was to find she had a new book out. I enjoyed it and stuck with it because of her--but it was a dense read that was difficult to follow--a criticism I find ironic b/c it is the complaint many of my friends gave about "The Sparrow" and I "hated" them for it! :)

Most interesting about the book is the glimpse of history Russell provides and with her backgroun
Jennifer Louden
How does she do it? Mary Doria Russell is one of the most talented novelists writing today - the complicated weave of this book almost rivals my favorite of hers, The Sparrow, which remains one of my favorite books. I put off reading this book because I'm not a fan of WWII historical novels = so much pain and horror and death. But I grabbed it on the way out the door for a four day ski trip, and I'm so glad I did. It's not a happy read in that there is no happy ending but it is a book that shine ...more
I realize I should probably explain my 3 star rating on what I consider otherwise to be an extraordinary book. The fact is, it was too realistic for me. It said some disturbing things about humanity and accountability, that my mind rejected. What that says about my ability to handle the world as it actually is, well, that's open to debate. But if you don't mind looking into the abyss and possibly seeing the abyss look back, then you will probably enjoy this book more than I did.
Sherry H
I've never been able to say with certainty why I'm so drawn to books about WWII. It's important to remember the Holocaust, yes, but there's more to it than that. I can't get enough of this kind of fiction. So this book was a double payoff. A fantastic read, yes. And an answer.

I'm drawn to the thread of grace. Amidst all the horror and hardship and mistreatment of human beings that took place, there were people who chose to fight back; there were people who chose to be good, and kind, and generou
Now that I have finished the book I really don't have more to add, so I will just leave my review as before. Other readers have disliked the ending. I have no complaints. War is war.

I have to stop my reading for a second to fill you in. This book is good. The book covers a difficult subject. How does this author suceed in infusing hope into war? By letting the characters also see beauty as they suffer and undergo terrible experiences - they "watch the sky go from gold to pink." Or earlier in th
I was considering adding this book to the Holocaust reading list I'm making my students for next semester. However, after reading about a quarter of this novel, I decided that if I could barely keep track of the characters and story line, it's unlikely that my remedial students would be able to read it and get much out of it.

The dust jacket states that Russell did "five years of meticulous research" for this novel - it felt like it. It seemed like the history came first, the characters second.
An incredible book about Italian Jews during WWII. Not for the faint of heart. Russell jumps right in without much character introduction, and so characters may be hard to keep track of, especially since three of the characters are actually one person: a Jewish Italian spy posing as a Nazi, and as a resistance fighter. Complex and memorable. I bought the book for a couple of other readers. That's how much I loved it.
Mar 20, 2007 janna rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
holy crap this is a depressing book. all books dealing w/ the holocaust are, but i was looking for the thread of grace. it's there, it's just not "a thread of grace and a few characters make it out together." that doesn't happen. don't expect a happy ending. fascinating history lesson of the italian resistance fighters during wwii, both jewish and catholic.
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What did you think of the book? 15 93 Sep 16, 2012 12:43PM  
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Mary Doria Russell is an American author. She was born in 1950 in the suburbs of Chicago. Her parents were both in the military; her father was a Marine Corps drill sergeant, and her mother was a Navy nurse.

She holds a Ph.D. in Paleoanthropology from the University of Michigan, and has also studied cultural anthropology at the University of Illinois, and social anthropology at Northeastern Univer
More about Mary Doria Russell...
The Sparrow (The Sparrow, #1) Children of God (The Sparrow, #2) Doc Dreamers of the Day Epitaph

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“When the preponderance of human beings choose to act with justice and generosity and kindness, then learning and love and decency prevail. When the preponderance of human beings choose power, greed, and indifference to suffering, the world is filled with war, poverty, and cruelty.” 21 likes
“Shall I tell you why young men love war? . . . In peace, there are a hundred questions with a thousand answers! In war, there is only one question with one right answer. . . . Going to war makes you a man. It is emotionally exciting and morally restful.” 9 likes
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