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Review: The Italian Ballerina by Kristy Cambron

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The Italian Ballerina is the latest book out by author Kristy Cambron, and if you like historical fiction, especially if it’s set in the WWII era, then you won’t want to miss this one.

I read alot of WWII era historical fiction, and I learned about some historical facts in this book that was not previously aware of.

And, since I also love ballet, the interesting addition of the ballet woven into a retelling of real historical facts was an added bonus.

My review will give you a short synopsis of The Italian Ballerina, and also my thoughts on what I liked best about the book, what I didn’t like, and whether it’s a worthwhile read.

The Italian Ballerina

the italian ballerina

The Italian Ballerina is the latest book out by Kristy Cambron, published in 2022.

This is a historical fiction novel set in the dual timeframes of present day and the WWII era.

I was first introduced to Kristy Cambron via her Lost Castle series of three books – The Lost Castle, Castle on the Rise, and The Painted Castle. Having read and loved all three of those books, I promptly set out to discover whatever else Kristy has written, and The Italian Ballerina is the next one of her books that I read.

Publishers Synopsis of The Italian Ballerina

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.

The Italian Ballerina – What I Liked

This book was a surprise to me, in that I learned some things about the WWII era that I didn’t know. While I’m by no means a WWII expert, I do read alot of historical fiction based on the WWII years, and it’s not often that something regarding the war years comes up that I haven’t heard of in some way or other in a previous book.

The Italian Ballerina, however, was based on the true story of a ruse devised by a very brave band of people in Italy who were determined to save as many lives as possible. So, I absolutely loved learning about something so historically important while reading fiction. I’m fascinated by this thing I learned – which is the fake contagious illness referred to as Syndrome K, a completely ficticious illness invented by the brave people trying to help the Jews in Rome during the Nazi occupation.

I love dual time frame books, and the dual time frame of this book, between present day and WWII Italy was interesting and really kept the story moving, while adding some elements of mystery to the book. I couldn’t wait to turn the pages and see what was waiting for me in the next section.

I seem to be reading dual time frames books quite often!

I thought that weaving in the subject of ballet, and the ballet dancers into this book was a brilliant way of adding a whole other dimension to this story, and especially combining it with the ruse that was Syndrome K.

The characters were well developed and quite likable, despite the problem I had with one of their names 🙂 (See what I disliked!)

And finally, I loved learning that a male ballet dancer is referred to as a ballerino in Italian 🙂

The Italian Ballerina – What I Disliked

In general, I liked this book. However, there are a few things that I struggled with.

First, one of the male characters had the first name of Courtney. This was a bit confusing for me at first. I read the prologue three times to make sure I was understanding correctly that this character was male. Why? Because Courtney is traditionally a female name. At least in my world at the moment. So, I had a problem envisioning the male character when he was being referred to as Courtney.

Next, despite the fact that I love dual timeframe books, this one was a bit confusing at first because there are two different timeframes from the WWII years, and one from the present day. There was no problem with the present-day characters, but it was a bit confusing to figure out the two separate WWII years’ timeframe, as they were only a few years apart at times and I had to keep going back and forth to see which year the previous section was set in.

The Italian Ballerina – Read, Reread or Reconsider?


Despite the fact that there were a few things I didn’t particularly like, I loved this book and I would recommend it if you enjoy historical fiction. Especially historical fiction from the WWII era.

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I don’t know about you, but I just can’t get enough historical fiction. If that’s you too, then feel free to head over to explore more historical fiction and see if you can find anything interesting.

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