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A Thread Of Grace > Finished--Discussion

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message 1: by Diane (new)

Diane (dianders1) | 136 comments Mod
If you've finished "A Thread of Grace", this is the place to discuss it.

message 2: by Diane (new)

Diane (dianders1) | 136 comments Mod
There are some discussion questions here, and I can do separate discussion threads if you would like me to.

message 3: by Patricia (new)

Patricia | 80 comments Finished. I looked at the questions... Too much like school, sorry. I'd have to write a proper essay and no one wants to read that!

I'll start this way: On my audiobook, at the end, there was an interview with the author. The book is based on fact - she researched this for 7 years and although the actual people didn't exist in these names and forms, people did do these things and the events happened, albeit not in those towns. She also converted to Judaism, so she has a strong interest in the religious/ cultural side of the story. Is Doria Italian? Is the other aspect of her interest in finding out that the Italians didn't serve up the Jews to the Nazis the way history often presents it?

I have to admit I was surprised - I don't think of the Italians as having been much involved in sheltering or helping the Jews. They are lovely people and they are very warm and generous, but helping Jews and Communists was instant death for the person and their family. And eventual reprisals of 50:1 for the community.

So that was a nice thing to learn. It also made me appreciate why the country has such a push me, pull you relationship with Communism. I guess several years of Mussolini would do it.

Schramm... Renzo. Claudette. Lydia. Hmmm. There's a lot here, and they were well written and interesting characters. But were they too well written? I mean, were they too perfectly perfect characters? I just didn't feel like any of them was REAL. Renzo came closest, maybe, but even him.... Maybe I just don't know enough psychology.

But what I want to know is, what was the Thread of Grace? Redemption of Schramm? (I think I know that he went back to Germany after the war and found his family; my version wasn't hugely clear on that.)

Nothing else had any grace in it. I mean, Renzo's death? Claudia's subsequent life in Canada? The priest in prison. Lydia. So many died, and they fought for something they believed in, but where was the grace? And was it enough? Of course we can't judge; one never knows until one is in the situation. But I didn't see the grace.

All in all, nice choice Emily!!! Looking forward to the next one!

message 4: by Emily (new)

Emily | 39 comments This book was recommended to me by my boyfriend and I asked him your question about the identity of the Thread of Grace. I'm hoping that he'll hop on and comment as I really can't do it justice. He said something about how "grace" doesn't always mean a happy ending. Hmm.

I was thrown by Renzo's death. All of that effort and sacrifice and for what? For what? He sacrificed everything and did not even get to enjoy the end of the fighting. Balderdash.

I'm not sure where Schramm landed. He left the field hospital with a German soldier, but that's (I believe) the last we see him. Did he make it home? Did he kill again? Was he redeemed?

And Claudette. Oh, Claudia. I like to think that she was protecting her children and protecting the memory of her first life/lives.

They were great characters, compiled from many real lives. I'm glad Chuck recommended it, even if it was a bit of a downer. (It may be more that a bit of a downer.)

I'm reading The Help now. It has sucked me in! Quite the captivating tale.

(And I'm still working on Middlemarch, here and there.)

message 5: by Patricia (new)

Patricia | 80 comments Don't get me wrong, I like the book and I'm glad I 'read' it. I am just not sure I got it and I want to.

I do know, I think, why Renzo died. He had to - he wanted to - that's why he didn't tell them who he was. He was atoning for what he'd done in Ethiopia (was it? Where he bombed them? I know Italy had Ethiopia as a colony of sorts, the whole spears against tanks thing they had going in the 1930s, so I think it was there) and his whole resistance experience was in atonement for that. I suspect he would have seen his death as redemption for that.

Claudia, I think was a different matter - no redemption and no atonement (this is why it couldn't be called Atonement, besides the other reason, which is why there is a book called that already!! :) ). Hers was the result of being a survivor and having the associated guilt. I understand that too - I mean, all those people who died and she didn't. Her first husband, her first baby. All her family, friends, neighbours, everyone she knew, until she got to Canada and had a family. Maybe she was protecting her kids, but I think more it was a matter of her just not wanting to think about it - and yet, not being able not to. Which is why she never smiled.

If Schramm's ending wasn't addressed in the book (remember, I had the audiobook and abridged at that) then the author fell down on the job. He was the ONLY point for which I could imagine there being a Thread of Grace. Yes, I agree with Chuck, grace isn't necessarily happiness. I didn't think of it as being happy. But grace could also be forgiveness, I think (I'm on hazy ground where we drift in to any kind of religious views or stuff like that, in the traditional sense of religion!)? If this can be an interpretation (forgiveness), where is it? As far as I could see, there was no forgiveness. If there is another interpretation, then I'd LOVE to hear about it.

I loved The Help. She got the behaviours and attitudes, the accents and the whole South thing down cold - that would be an interesting discussion, a comparison of the authors' successes (or not) in portraying their characters' behaviours and motivations and essenscences... Hmmm, maybe that last bit is a bit whacky. Anyway, I'll look forward to hearing what you have to say about it. And well done with Middlemarch. I was going to plod through the beginning again (I read it so slowly and too long ago, I have to start again) on the Tube this afternoon, but meeting cancelled, so I'll go knit instead!!! Or grocery shop.....

I am quite enjoying this on-line book discussion thing!! Thanks Diane!

message 6: by Diane (new)

Diane (dianders1) | 136 comments Mod
Okay, I finally finished it!!!! I always loved it, but it was a hard read for me until I got sucked back into it this weekend.

I disagree a bit with you all on this. It was sad, because war is sad, but I didn't think Renzo's death was pointless at all. If anything, I thought it WAS a sort of grace for him. After all his sacrifices, losing his mother, his sister(s), nieces, nephews, friends, neighbors, and finally Mirella (did he even know?!), being allowed to die was a great gift for him. Of course he was haunted by the bombing in Abyssinia, but losing Mirella would have been an even greater remorse. Yes, ultimately she was Iacopo's "responsibility," but Renzo felt responsible for everyone, and she was his "girl."

Claudia makes me sad, but I understand her. I'm not sure that she didn't talk about the war because she didn't want to relive it, though that was part of it. I think the entire experience was so sacred to her on so many levels (her first husband and child, primarily), that she didn't want to discuss that with people who could never possibly know or appreciate what she had experienced. And just hearing about it 30 years later doesn't mean that you appreciate it--you just know a few facts. Had she been able to sit down with Duno (whatever happened to him?) or Renzo, I think she would have been much more open with her life, even with her children in the room. Of course, that never happened, and everyone lost. But I do understand her. Iacopo--I don't get him. Maybe there is something to the whole celibacy thing in Catholic priesthood. If you feel that strongly towards your parishioners (don't know what the Jewish equivalent is), then you have no business being married and having children that you will time and time again abandon.

Schramm, I agree with Pat, was the obvious recipient of "grace." A true redemption, both outwardly and inwardly. I hope he returned to Germany and reunited with his family, but were they even alive at that point? Would he be able to tell them about his massive change of heart, or would that negate all their suffering during his absence? Was that all for nothing, now that he didn't even believe in the original tenets of the "superior race?" As an alternative to living his life "in the open," would he, too, shut a door on his past and just try to forget? Since he did write to Suora Corniglia, I think he must have found a way to reconcile his past with his present/future.

Loved the book, lots to think about, and I'm very interested in reading more about the war in Italy. We usually only hear about Britain, Germany, and Japan, and only minor this and that about Italy.

Maybe we should make "The Help" our next book, though I know Pat, Emily, and Sally have already read it. Who wants to pick next?

message 7: by Patricia (new)

Patricia | 80 comments Oh, dear; cCan't remember which one Iacopo is (the downside of listening to books, they don't stay with you as much); was he the priest? All I come away with is the whole torture thing re the priest, and I think (or so I have read) at some point, you don't care. So I don't know what to say about your comments.

Does Schramm not believe in the superior race? I didn't get that either, not as clearly. Just that he rethought his teaching. But I had an abridged copy, so you may well be right. Regardless, I thought he was yucky, but maybe I just am not so convinced in people's ability to change that much.

I'm good with The Help. If no one else comes forward, I'll think of the next book after that!!

message 8: by Diane (new)

Diane (dianders1) | 136 comments Mod
Iacopo was the rabbi, Mirella's husband. I know most of the men weren't present because they were fighting, but he chose to constantly leave his wife and family's safe-keeping in the hands of others and just disappeared. Probably not that unusual, but I still didn't care for his character. Schramm started out yucky, but I felt that he absolutely did rethink his beliefs. After working so intimately with the partisans, the majority of whom (in that particular group) were Jews, and then delivering Claudia's premature baby, I think he valued at least some, though not all, human life differently. The torture scene with Tomitz was horrible, I agree. Helping him die was definitely an act of mercy on Schramm's part. I wonder if he truly felt that way when he was putting all those people in Germany to death. Did he truly think he was showing them mercy? I wonder...

message 9: by Patricia (new)

Patricia | 80 comments OK, I concede Iacopo, I'd forgtten him and you're right, he disappeared. Schramm, I'm still suspicious of. Do people REALLY change character so much? Maybe, but....

So, are we doing The Help??!! That'll be a fun one. Have you finished that one already? I'm back on murder mysteries, although I'm trying to read some 'real' books I was referred to in NY. They have just become so graphic in yuckiness (I'm improving my vocab here, as I'm sure you have noticed!!).

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