28 October 2009

Book Review: It Happened in Italy

It Happened in Italy: Untold Stories of How the People of Italy Defied the Horrors of the Holocaust, by Elizabeth Bettina, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2009.

This was a selection for my book discussion group this month. I was intrigued by the subject and was expecting something more than I got from this book.

Bettina, in this book, tells about how she learned, unexpectedly, that her ancestral town in Italy, where she traveled frequently as a child, had been the site of a Jewish internment camp during World War II. Even more surprising, though, was that this camp was not like the horrible death camps run by the Nazis. Unlike their fellow Jews in other parts of Europe, most of the Jews in Italy survived. The survivors documented in this book repeatedly talked about the generosity of the Italians who treated them humanely, and, when the Germans came, saved them by hiding them.

This sounds like a great story, right? I thought so, which is why I was so disappointed in this book. Great stories don't always make good books if the writing is not good. The book was more about the author's journey of discovery than about the survivors. As such, it was repetitive and boring. The book is desperately in need of very serious editing. If any chapter was submitted as a draft in a college writing class, I imagine that 'Show; don't tell" would be written across the pages.

Still, many of the photos and documents reproduced in the book are fascinating. It is uplifting to know that there were good people who worked to save their fellow human beings. The author writes about how she and her colleague videotaped the survivors of the Italian camps that they met. I'm sure that a documentary of the survivors would be much more interesting and I would watch it if it were available. Nowhere in the book does the author indicate that it has been distributed. Too bad. I think it would be more interesting than her story of finding these individuals.

1 comment:

Dorothy W. said...

That's too bad. It sounds like there was great potential for a good book, but it just didn't happen. It sounds like a worthwhile book if you are in search of information on the subject, but otherwise, maybe not.