I'm a sucker for a historical fiction story. Especially one set during WWII that involves a romance. The story of Court, AJ, Julia, Matteo, Delaney and Calla are all intertwined in the most beautiful and tragic way. It's a story of love and loss and sacrifice. How a ballerina and two soldiers save the life of one little Jewish girl. The premise behind the story is real. The raid on the Italian Jewish ghetto by the Gestapo in 1943, the hospital that offered refuge to the few Jews who managed an escape and the amazingly self-less doctors, priests and soldiers who fought to protect them. It was a story I had a hard time putting down and one that I never tired of reading.
—Candice Kirk, Snail Readers Circle
At the height of the Nazi occupation of Rome, an unlikely band of heroes comes together to save innocent lives in this breathtaking World War II novel based on real historical events.
Rome, 1943. With the fall of Italy's Fascist government and the Nazi regime occupying the streets of Rome, British ballerina Julia Bradbury is stranded and forced to take refuge at a hospital on Tiber Island. But when she learns of a deadly sickness sweeping through the quarantine wards--a fake disease known only as Syndrome K--she is drawn into one of the greatest cons in history. Alongside hospital staff, friars of the adjoining church, and two Allied medics, Julia risks everything to rescue Jewish Italians from the deadly clutches of the Holocaust. Soon a little girl who dreams of becoming a ballerina arrives at their door, and Julia is determined to reunite the young dancer with her family--if only she would reveal one crucial secret: her name.
Present Day. Delaney Coleman recently lost her grandfather--a beloved small-town doctor and World War II veteran, so she returns home to help her aging parents. When a mysterious Italian woman reaches out claiming to own one of the family's precious heirlooms, Delaney is compelled to travel to Italy and uncover the truth of her grandfather's hidden past. With the help of the woman's skeptical but charming grandson, Delaney learns of a Roman hospital that saved hundreds of Jewish people during the war. Soon, everything Delaney thought she knew about her grandfather comes into question.
Based on true accounts of the invented Syndrome K sickness, The Italian Ballerina journeys from the Allied storming of the beaches at Salerno to the London ballet stage and the war-torn streets of World War II Rome, exploring the sometimes heart-wrenching choices we must make to find faith and forgiveness, and how saving a single life can impact countless others.
- Split timeline: WWII and present day
- Stand-alone novel
- Book length: approximately 107,000 words
- Includes discussion questions for book clubs