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A Thread of Grace

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  12,671 ratings  ·  1,444 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,
Paperback, 442 pages
Published December 6th 2005 by Ballantine Books (first published February 1st 2005)
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Hannah There are actually two mild sex scenes-one gentle moment between two newlyweds and also a rape by occupying forces. The book is a fantastic read, but…moreThere are actually two mild sex scenes-one gentle moment between two newlyweds and also a rape by occupying forces. The book is a fantastic read, but lots of pain, suffering and death.(less)

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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
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
Nov 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels, favorites

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,
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Laysee by: Marita
"No matter how dark the tapestry God weaves for us, there's always a thread of grace." -Mary Doria Russell.

A Thread of Grace is an important and informative historical novel by Mary Doria Russell that tells a true story of the courage and sacrifice of ordinary Italian citizens who saved the lives of forty-three thousand Jews between 1943 and 1945 in the last phase of WW2.

The Axis forces have begun to crumble. Italy has surrendered and signed the armistice. For uprooted Jews living in
Julie Christine
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
Book Concierge
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.
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
Nov 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Apr 10, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-i-own
I finished this a bit ago but had no idea what to say. There is so much going on. I never knew this part of WWII history. The Jews amaze me with their strength and will. The Italians amaze me for their bravery. I loved the characters. My only qualm is that at times it got a bit wordy. When it did I skimmed just a bit :).

Excellent story!
Ben Babcock
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linda Hart
Sep 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was deeply moved by this story and am impressed by Mary Doria Russell's ability as an author. She has created characters that one can't help but love and care about. Favorite quote, and summation of the book's message ....“No matter how dark the tapestry God weaves for us, there's always a thread of grace.”
I will never forget the incomprehensible struggle of crossing the Alps to freedom (short lived) and Italy in 1943.
This is a beautiful but painful book that will stay with me for a long
Kristy Miller
Nov 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Lisa Vegan
Jul 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Mar 04, 2015 rated it liked it
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 I wasn't able to sit down and read in
Anita Pomerantz
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
Let's start off by saying that this book was not my cup of tea. While I enjoy historical fiction, A Thread of Grace was too much history, and not enough strong novelization for my taste. With a cast of 44 characters (thank god for the guide to them in my Kindle edition), I found only two to be satisfactorily developed: Mirella and oddly, Werner Schramm, a German doctor. The rest I really didn't care about at all, so while the end was quite dramatic with several major characters dying; it didn't ...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
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 ...more
Jul 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical, sociology
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 ...more
Dec 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Set in Italy during World War II, this novel interweaves the stories of Jewish refugees, ordinary Italian citizen/rescuers, the Nazis, and Italian resistance fighters. Despite the fact that this book is fiction, it provides many historical details about the role of the Italian citizenry in the rescue of Jews. The characters are well developed and unforgettable, the story is engrossing. A great read for anyone who likes to read about this period of time.
Dec 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 ever 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
Linda Robinson
Apr 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
On the ground, a drunk, coughing German officer; a girl of 14 with green eyes; a 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 ...more
Jan 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
I found the subject matter of this book really interesting--WWII in Northern Italy and the assistance some Italians gave to local Jews and refugees coming through the French border. The risks some people took to do the right thing is at times breathtaking. Having said this, the characters were complex and varied, and this certainly was not a rose coloured story with a happy ending the main characters. My only reservation in not giving it five stars is that at times the narrative thread got a tad ...more
Apr 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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 ...more
May 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  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 ...more
Feb 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hf, religion, italy, 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
Thread of Grace was beautifully done. Written in 2004, it was my very first book by Mary Doria Russell, who it appears many of my Goodreads friends have loved and held in quite high esteem. Thread of Grace traces five families and some remarkable characters through the Nazi invasion of Italy, where German soldiers were looking to expunge and exterminate Jewish refugees, and anyone who tried to help them. I have read countless books on world war two, and never have I seen it from the Italian ...more
Apr 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Ratings (1 to 5)
Writing: 4
Plot: 5
Characters: 5
Emotional impact: 4
Overall rating: 4.5
I was very thankful that there was a list of characters in the beginning of the book, as there were many, and some went by various names throughout the story. I referred to this list often. I think the characters were actually my favorite aspect of this book; so interesting and complex.
There is no such a name as "Tomasso" in Italy.
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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
“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.” 24 likes
“No matter how dark the tapestry God weaves for us, there's always a thread of grace.” 14 likes
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