Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It Happened In Italy By Elizabeth Bettina

When you think of the Holocaust, you are likely to conjure up horrific images of destruction of life and the genocide of the Jews. These are the images that come to my mind. In It Happened in Italy, Elizabeth Bettina creates a new quilted fabric to envision as she sews together chapter after chapter of stories of Jews who were treated with respect in small Italian towns during the war. While reading the book, I could feel her escalating excitement as she encountered more and more Holocaust survivors and surprisingly learned about how others risked punishment in order to do the “right thing” by treating Jews kindly.

Bettina writes succinct chapters, detailing her meetings with the survivors and even her arranged meeting of honor with the pope. It’s easy to comprehend her passion for Holocaust survivors. She admits, “If I have learned one thing, it is that one never knows when an event can completely change your life, or at least add a very unexpected twist.”

Though I sensed the thrill Bettina experienced on her journey to connect survivors, I didn’t fall in love with the writing style. I was however, deeply moved to study the dozens of photographs and documents in the book. Coupled with the accounts Bettina provided, the photographs enabled certain stories to come to life for me in a unique way. I was also grateful to read about something I’d not been privy to before, those who decided to act against Hitler’s wishes and by doing so, helped hundreds (194 mentioned in this book) of people live and have lives of impact.

I’ve enjoyed being able to select books to review for Thomas Nelson Publishers.


  1. Wow - that's cool about the Thomas Nelson blog review deal. I'm going to bookmark that page. I'm assuming they change the books available to review as time passes?

  2. Sounds like a remarkable book, filled with enriching journeys through a terrible human struggle. You mention not loving the author's writing style. As a writer, I'm curious ... did you notice anything the author could have done to possibly engage you more as a reader?

  3. Katie, yes, the book options change. I've loved the experience and the free books. I have No complaints and instead have found it a rewarding opportunity. Worth looking into!

    Joanne, excellent question. This review was harder for me than others b/c of what you mentioned. Bettina skips around often with the stories and sort of skims over details, at the point when I just began to get engaged with a certain survivor. Her writing was simplistic, which at times helped me to be clear about the stories, but I think this book could have been written with more (how should I put it) gripping emotion or poetry. I was expecting that. I could tell how she felt, but it didn't transfer smoothly to me. Hope that makes sense.

    ~ Wendy

  4. I was curious about this book. I read and review for Thomas Nelson as well but decided not to order this book. I'm glad it moved you in the way it did. Thanks for sharing your opinion!

  5. Great review! I also review books and enjoy it--when I have time, that is. Now I'm totally interested in this one. There were a couple books I read on this topic that I was completely invested in. Sounds like this would be a good companion read. Thanks!


  6. The cover is so beautiful; it makes me want to read it. Thanks for the great review!

  7. Wendy: I had never heard of this book before today. It looks and sounds fascinating. It is a true story, right?
    I reviewed books for Thomas Nelson for awhile, but got too busy. I may pick it up again sometime; it's a great program. You get free books and they get free advertising. Whoever thought of it is a smarty!

  8. Sounds like an amazing book! I've always been interested in the Holocaust but I didn't realize how Italy played its part. Nice to know of more light in such an evil time.

  9. I love Italy, and this book sounds like it would shed yet another light on this fascinating country.

  10. Cindy, I can't wait for the new one I just ordered...Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl!

    Momma Miller, I've read a lot about the Holocaust too. I like how you called it a companion read.

    Jill, I think the cover sold me too!

    Jeanette, yes, multiple true stories. I agree whoever thought about this reviewing program is a smarty and I'm grateful to them b/c books for me are like gold.

    Jessica, that is what sparked my interest as well, hearing how there were people who stood up for what was right. I keep wondering if I should mention this, but it wasn't my favorite read. I gave it a three out of five stars.

    Kara, I love Italy too. We were able to visit briefly several years ago. The book did shed a new light on that country.

    This was the first review I've completed where I really felt torn about how to write the review. I am all for honesty and all for kindness. I tried to blend the two. I'm fully aware that people hold varying opinions on books. I hope I was able to communicate that the book had redeeming qualities, but was not something I was overly enthusiastic about.

    Hoping you all rest well.
    ~ Wendy

  11. Don't know how I missed your post earlier today, Wendy! I had my after lunch coffee and blog reading and somehow I missed seeing your post! I actually am quite fascinated by Holocaust stories and have read many, many. They are always griping in some way or another.


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