You can read Dave's thoughts on the book here and Ms Russell e-mailed him her thoughts about the book which are posted on Chewing the Fat also. That post also contains a lot of discussion on the book in the comments including some links to other bloggers posts.
I am shockingly late to this party because of being ill but I do have to say I'm glad I didn't try to read it whilst feeling lousy (oh and thanks for all the well wishes etc, I'm finally back to fighting fit). It's not a comforting, easy read. It challenges you and makes you think right from the very first page. I wish I could write something that would do it justice, I wish I could write half as good as Ms Russell. I can do neither.
Disability is a theme throughout this book but in a way in which you almost don't notice it. There is one huge yes moment that people have commented in the discussion made them cry. It didn't make me cry. But it did make me suck in my breath and appreciate just how huge that moment and that achievement was in the book. And it made me very happy when later on in the story it became obvious that it was a hard won lesson but one in which had to a certain extent been taken to heart. But happy is the wrong word in that context. Other than that moment it was until after reading others' comments that I realised just how often there were hints of disability in the book.
World War Two is a favourite period of mine to read about and that more so than the disability themes/moment is what drew me in and made me enjoy the book more than anything. It is truly masterful the way in which so many unthought of issues are woven together to provide a full and true picture of life during that time.
And in Italy too, a place I've always wanted to visit.
On one of the last pages in the book one of the characters shares a Hebrew saying with another.
"No matter how dark the tapestry God weaves for us, there is always a Thread of Grace."
That's true for all of us - and Ms Russell has brought her characters to life and shown us the Threads of Grace which lit up even the darkest of their worlds.