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A Thread of Grace

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really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  10,522 Ratings  ·  1,240 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
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Hardcover, 430 pages
Published February 1st 2005 by Random House (first published December 6th 2004)
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Aj Davenport It has no sexual content but it is set during WW2 so lots of violence, drinking and pain.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Violet wells
A Thread of Grace tells the story of the Nazi occupation of a region of north east Italy. It begins with an uprooted community of Jews in southern France who have to flee France across the Alps when the Italians sign the armistice. It’s essentially the story of how these refugees fare in Italy.
When I discovered Mary Doria Russell had invented all the locations in the novel I was a bit dubious as so often this is a trick writers use to mask the sparseness of their knowledge. But the thoroughness
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Ellen
Nov 14, 2009 Ellen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, novels


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
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Michael
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
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Julie
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
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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
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Jen
Nov 14, 2008 Jen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Noel
Apr 10, 2009 Noel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit-and-fiction
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
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Ben Babcock
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kristy Miller
Years ago, when I was still working at Borders, I came across a paperback book on the front tables as I was straightening up. The cover caught my eye, and I picked it up to read the back. It was set in northern Italy, towards the end of World War II, and I decided to make it my book of the week. At that point Italy was my favorite country that I’d visited, and I have been obsessed with World War II stories since I was a girl. That book, Thread of Grace, was to become my favorite book, and Mary D ...more
Lisa Vegan
Jul 18, 2008 Lisa Vegan rated it really liked it
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
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Nancy (NE)
Dec 21, 2015 Nancy (NE) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My experience of Maria Doria Russell’s writing has been consistently wonderful. I loved her Sparrow and Children of God. This follow up to those sci-fi moral tales was seven years in its creation and according to an interview, during a difficult time in her life – the kind of mundane tragedies and challenges we real peons think no one famous every struggles with. Her historical fiction is every bit as complex as her other work. A Thread Of Grace is a narrative of the Italian resistance including ...more
Wealhtheow
Jul 30, 2007 Wealhtheow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology, historical
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
Holli
Spoiler Alert!

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
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Booknblues
A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell is a story set in Northern Italy after the Italian armistice in World War II in 1943. After the armistice, the Germans invaded Italy and continued their holocaust. But in Italy there was much resistance and the Italians protected the Jews with much success as it had the highest Jewish survival rate of German occupied Europe. Russell spent 6 years researching the stories of Italy during World War II by interviewing survivors both here and and in Italy, so c ...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
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Amy
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
Donna
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
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Linda Robinson
Apr 14, 2015 Linda Robinson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Barbara
May 18, 2010 Barbara rated it really liked it
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
Irene
Dec 06, 2015 Irene rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is another brilliant book by an amazingly versatile author. This is the story of the Italian resistance, set in northwestern Italy in 1943-1945. Despite a full stage of characters, Russell manages to make each stand off the page with vitality and unique personalities. Russell does not shy away from the brutality and capriciousness of war. Readers who crave happy endings may be disappointed since even in victory there are no unadulterated happy endings. But, there is also no unadulterated mi ...more
Joel Wentz
Dec 24, 2016 Joel Wentz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whoa....this novel kind of blew me away. It's the type of 'historical fiction' that I admire greatly, and that I aspire to write some day (although reading something like this makes me seriously question my ability to pull something like it off....but I digress....)

Russell brings to life a period of history (end of WWII) that is seemingly well-known and understood, but in a setting (Northern Italy) that is less so. I found myself enthralled by the idea of Italian communities struggling with thei
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Sarah
Jul 31, 2010 Sarah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Chrissie
Feb 12, 2008 Chrissie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion, italy, hf, kirkus
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
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Bobby
Oct 17, 2008 Bobby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
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
Ellis
Sep 16, 2007 Ellis rated it liked it  ·  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
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Amy
Jul 29, 2011 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italy, world-war-ii
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
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Robin
Oct 01, 2007 Robin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: all-time-faves
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
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Jennifer Louden
Feb 15, 2015 Jennifer Louden rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Erika
Nov 10, 2009 Erika rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Kiwi
I wanted to like this book but I just couldn't get into it. The interesting historical setting of the book, the dangerous crossing of the border between France and Italy after the Italian armistice on 8th September 1943, is what led me to this novel, but it was a disappointment.
The large numbers of characters and story lines made it confusing, especially when different names were used to refer to the same character. Unfortunately, the author doesn’t seem to spend enough time on any of its chara
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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
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More about Mary Doria Russell...

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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.” 23 likes
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