An unflinching look at heroism in the darkest circumstances, this novel chronicles the lives of a large group of fictional characters in Italy during the Nazi occupation near the end of WWII. (Though fictional, they are based on interviews of real people who were there, or upon historical records. One of the major plotlines concerns a Jewish family who escaped over the Alps into Italy, and a group of nuns who helped hide them when this occupation followed.) Horrific details mix with the continuation (as much as possible) of everyday life, and it’s all written in the present tense to give a greater sense of reader involvement. The meaning of the title is revealed near the end. It sums up an optimistic view of life even during the worst horrors perpetrated on humans by other humans. This book is also a warning, as our own country seems to be sliding in the direction of similar tyranny.
The WWII historical novel that remains my favorite after reading many. Russell's characters, settings, and plot transport you to northern Italy and make you wonder what you would do in similar circumstances. A modern masterpiece in its genre.
I rate this book a 5 star. Excellent! Read it on an iPad and you can always review who characters are and Google the history. The author gave a realistic view of what was going on in Italy and it had powerful message. A great book with substance. The characters come to life in the way she writes. I will begin reading more of her books.
Lovely writing and a fascinating story, although I did struggle with the vast cast of characters. It was difficult to remember who was who at times.
I had a hard time getting into this book as there were so many characters and a lot of the names sounded similar. Confusion over who was who reigned until I decided not to worry about it. The story of the Italian resistance rang through loud and clear. The amount of detail pulled together and woven into the narrative made the book a good read. I could see the mountains, the villages, the town, the tattered people. Most of the litereary attention has been on Britain, northern Europe and the Soviet Union with only a little time spent on the south, or Africa, so to read such a detailed account of the last years of the war in Northern Italy was very interesting and informative.
The intersection of the different groups of people interested me as well, especially the Jewish and Catholic communities. The author creates each community in such a way that it seems she must have lived several lives, growing up in each community, to know such details, dialects, and cultures.
It reminded me very much of the stories my grandparents used to tell, of their struggles, grief, and the general fear and confusion in Yugoslavia during and immediately after WWII. It was a terrible time. The book's stories ring true.
Also she adds to the story, by alluding to the nuances between different individual Catholics or different individual Jews (or even different atheists). She shows her knowledge that each Catholic, or each Jew, has some human difference in carrying out their belief, though they all reverently bow to the same creed of their religion. This adds a human element; a true, kaleidoscope factor, which is a refreshing and reassuring change from our current secular society's views on religious groups as thoughtless followers.
Her novel deals with a very complicated time in Europe, and expounds on history that is not usually taught in schools, likely for the simple fact that it is complicated, and that many of the facts have still not been documented.
The only drawback (besides a few too many allusions to sex), was that the author seemed to paint the Partisans in a positive light. Knowing what I know from my grandparents own lives and my own study, when the Communist Partisans took over, the fear, bloodshed and mass killings only got worse.
I am eager to read another of this author's books.
gals walk grp bookclub
Russell mines a little knowm nugget of Italian and Jewish history in this tale of the intersection of partisans, Jewish immigrants, Italian peasants and Nazi aggressors in the late stages of WWII. There is a lot to learn here about guilt and redemption. The author bravely goes where most others wouldn't and the final pages are a testament to her unique vision of these events.
I was both surprised and delighted by this book. The writing carries the reader along through a somewhat complex story, keeping characters vivid. Russell takes some risks in her narration, and deeply involves the reader in the characters' fates.
I would highly recommend this book as a view of a bit of WWII history few of us are familiar with. Russell's earlier novels are classified as Sci Fi, but as a non-sci fi reader I would recommend them for their character development and thought-provoking topic.
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