Jennifer Reese
January 31, 2005 AT 05:00 AM EST

A Thread of Grace

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Mary Doria Russell
publisher
Random House
genre
Fiction

We gave it a B-

This busy WWII saga dramatizes the experience of Jews in Italy — the country with the highest Jewish survival rate in Nazi-occupied Europe. ”As soon as our Führer began to drive them from the Vaterland, Jews ran like rats for Italy,” one Gestapo thug explains. A Thread of Grace‘s enormous cast includes native Italians, like small-town rabbi Iacopo Soncini, as well as Jews fleeing Northern Europe, like Belgian teenager Claudette Blum. Claudette falls in love with a Calabrian soldier, one of the many ”artistically inefficient” Italians who flout German orders. Unfortunately, the earnest novel’s focus is too diffuse to provide a compelling picture of what any of these characters endures.

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