Russell, Mary Doria. 2005. A Thread of Grace. Random House. 464 pages.
A simple answer to a simple question.
A Thread of Grace is a complex historical fiction novel for adults. Set mainly in Italy during World War II, it tells not one or two stories--but many stories, a dozen at least. The good news? They are very human stories. They can also be very compelling stories. The bad news? They're not all equally compelling. And I'm not sure why that is. It could be all on me. The book could be all brilliant, all the time, but my mood just played too big a role in how I 'read' that day. Or, the book could be unevenly written.
The book can definitely be challenging. There are over thirty characters to follow, and many of these--though certainly not all of them--play narrator at various times. We get to see many of these characters up, close, and personal. But their stories are tangled together, intertwined. And the narrative structure isn't always the easiest to follow.
The good news is that when it's good, it's really, really good. When you're able to connect with the story, with the characters, then everything is great. The bad news is that when you're not able to connect, when you're more confused than anything else, it can be a chore to read. I haven't decided why I would feel such a connection with some of these characters, and yet feel so disconnected from others.
Was it worth it?....for me? Yes! The parts I enjoyed, I really enjoyed. There was so much to love in this one. Fascinating, flawed humans living during a very difficult time in history. I cared about the fate of these rebels, those in the Resistance fighting against the Nazis, and I really cared about the Jewish families trying to survive and hide. The book was harsh and brutal in places. Don't expect everything to be happy-happy-happy, because it's not going to happen. This is not that kind of book. Because it was authentic to the times, I think. It wasn't always an easy novel to read--emotionally speaking. I was surprised at the depth of some of these characters. One in particular, but I don't want to spoil things for you!
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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