The Italian Ballerina

Written by Kristy Cambron
Review by Bonnie DeMoss

Rome, 1943.  British ballerina Julia Bradbury is stranded in Italy during the Nazi occupation and takes refuge at the hospital on Tiber Island. Along with two American medics and a young Jewish girl, she becomes part of a conspiracy to promote a fake disease—Syndrome K—in order to rescue Italian Jews from the Nazis.

Present day: After the loss of her grandfather, who was a doctor and World War II vet, Delaney returns home to help her parents settle his estate.  When a letter arrives claiming that an Italian woman owns one of the family heirlooms, Delaney is not convinced.  She travels to Italy and, with the help of the woman’s grandson, learns of a hospital in Rome that saved hundreds of Jews during the war, and of her grandfather’s role in it all.

This is a compelling story of the Nazi invasion of Rome, the fake Syndrome K sickness, and the courageous people who used it to save others. This novel takes us to small-town America, London, and Italy from 1939 to 1943, as well as forward to the present day. There are inspirational themes of faith, sacrifice, and second chances.  The time-jumps back and forth between different places and events of the 1940s are a bit confusing, and may have been less so if told in sequence.  However, the characters are inspiring and easy to connect with, and the plot is fascinating, with touches of romance that fit well into the story.  The facts about the Syndrome K sickness were new to me, and these facts are expertly woven into the fictional storyline.  The present-day timeline is enjoyable and ties the whole story together. Fans of wartime fiction and inspirational fiction will enjoy this look at World War II Italy.