Although the characters in this historical novel are fictional, it is based on an actual situation. In 1943, when the German officials occupying Rome gave orders to clear the Jewish ghetto, some escaped to the Fatebenefratelli Hospital and the adjoining San Giovanni Calibita Church, where they were sheltered and saved by an invented disease–“Syndrome K.” Nazis who came to search the hospital were handed masks and advised that a highly contagious plague was spreading through the patients — they declined to search the “quarantine wards.” This allowed time for those hiding to be provided with false documents and spirited away.
The story moves from 1943 when a young Jewish girl is saved at the hospital through the intervention of two American medics, to the present day. The girl is now old, and the soldiers who rescued her have died. Before dementia sets in, she is able to tell her story to her own grandson and the granddaughter of one of the medics, as well as deliver some historic documents to the Holocaust Museum in Rome.
Of course, there is more to the story, including some romance, and the themes of forgiveness, faith and reconciliation are woven in as well.
There were many characters, and yet none were developed completely enough to create a sense of empathy in the reader. In the same way, the Christian topics were only addressed in a rudimentary way.
VERDICT: 3 STARS. If you’re looking for an easy to read, historical romance, you may like it. I was not impressed.
For more Christian fiction see:
until Leaves fall in Paris by Sarah Sundin–Book Review
The Purple Nightgown by A. D. Lawrence–Book Review
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