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Publisher's Summary

It is September 8, 1943, and 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, where they hope to be safe at last, now that the Italians have broken with Germany and made a separate peace with the Allies. The Blums will soon discover that Italy is anything but peaceful, as it becomes, overnight, an open battleground pitting against one another the Nazis, the Allies, resistance fighters, Jews in hiding, and ordinary Italians trying to survive. Set against this dramatic background, Russell traces the lives of a handful of fascinating characters, a charismatic Italian resistance leader, a Catholic priest, an Italian rabbi's family, and a disillusioned German doctor, telling the little-known but true story of the Italian citizens who saved the lives of 43,000 Jews during the war.
©2005 Mary Doria Russell (P)2005 Books on Tape, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"An expansive, well-researched, and compelling novel." (Booklist)
"The action moves swiftly, with impressive authority, jostling dialogue, vibrant personalities and meticulous, unexpected historical detail. The intensity and intimacy of Russell's storytelling, her sharp character writing and fierce sense of humor bring fresh immediacy to this riveting WWII saga." (Publishers Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Deborah on 09-14-05

I had no idea......

Having grown up in the years immediately following WWII, I thought that I had heard all of the "war stories". Having married a first generation Italian, I thought that I knew alot about the Italian involvement in WWII. This book did something that few books can do for me: it told me a story that I had never heard of before. Such grace under fire, such fine humanity, such noble characters. This is a magnificent book and something that I wish I had read MUCH earlier!

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11 of 11 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Michelle on 06-28-05

I loved the story and the narrator

The book is amazing and deserves accolades for itself, but what I'm really enjoying about the audiobook is the reader, Cassandra Campbell. Her voice is clear and warm. With her accents, the difference between the pronunciation of Germanic German and Austrian German is quite clear in her voice. Both of these are, of course, completely distinguishable from her French and Italian. The accents help define the characters with the one's light high Italian and another's harsh Black Forest German. Also I find, that I can easily distinguish between male and female characters without a lot of false barritone from Campbell. I'm going to look for other works read by her.

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11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Mrs. on 04-10-13

Lovin it!

I'm not quite finished it yet but so glad I bought this, multilayered, cultural, historical, romantic it's got the lot. As with all really good books I'm desperate to know what happens next but will be sad when it's over!

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Anthony on 09-20-11

Superb

I had not read or listened to any of this novelist's work before I downloaded this novel, which I chose because I enjoy the narration of Cassandra Campbell. Of course, I was not disappointed by the narration: nor by the novel. The plot line you can read elsewhere, but it taught me much I did not know about the German-Italian Axis of WWII, as well as the geography of Northern Italy and Judaism!

Novels which inform as well as tell a story are always welcome. This is also a deeply-moving novel about the separation and mistreatment of Jewish families, of the bravery and courage of Italians who chose to shelter them and those who betrayed them, of the Italian partisan resistance, and of all the best and worst qualities war can bring out in humans. Although I thought I knew quite a bit about the Final Solution devised by Hitler for Europe's Jews, and anyone else the Nazis thought unworthy of living, this novel showed there was much I still did not know about its horrors, and it is at times a very harrowing, even distressing, novel. The author, rightly, does not spare the listener the horrors of war and there is often no happy ending for some of the characters the listener comes to like and admire. The meaning of the title is not revealed until near the end, and gives a glimmer of reason for optimism. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who is interested in learning more about the levels to which human qualities like compassion, kindness, bravery and selflessness can reach and, conversely, the human capacity for intolerance, ignorance, cruelty and selfishness. It certainly made me want to explore more of this author's work.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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