A fascinating historical novel

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vicklea Avatar


Told from the viewpoint of Elsa, the author’s grandmother, this is an absolutely fascinating look at Italy during the time of Mussolini and Hitler. Elsa leaves Germany to marry Paul (kind of an old-fashioned, arranged marriage that actually seems charming) and together they buy and operate a bed and breakfast in a small town there outside of Naples. The Pensione Alexandria is the heart and soul of the story because it is there that so many different characters touch the lives of Elsa and Paul. It is where we see the changes in life for the Jewish population once Hitler has taken an iron grip on Germany and begins to extend his influence to Mussolini. As a Jew, Elsa suffers being ousted from a local social club. This book holds a lot of wisdom and insight into what Fascism is and how it affects the lives of regular people. Jewish ostracism in Italy is not as apparent, but Elsa writes about the changes that begin subtly in Germany, in such a quiet way that hardly anyone notices how harshly the Jews are being treated. This is a story that needs to be told. It is a true story based on the accounts of what happened to Elsa as told to her grandson. I loved the way the story flowed and seemed like Elsa was stepping off the page to tell me the story herself! Of course, given the history of Italy and Germany, there are some very sad parts of the story, but it is all told in such a way that you want to be with Elsa and live that life with her all over again, and this time, maybe notice things more and be able to make changes to the way society treated an innocent group of people who just happened to be Jewish. If you love history, you will love this historical novel!