From the blurb:
And then came war . . .
Today. Sera James spends most of her time arranging auctions for the art world’s elite clientele. When her search to uncover an original portrait of an unknown Holocaust victim leads her to William Hanover III, they learn that this painting is much more than it seems.
Vienna, 1942. Adele Von Bron has always known what was expected of her. As a prodigy of Vienna’s vast musical heritage, this concert violinist intends to carry on her family’s tradition and play with the Vienna Philharmonic. But when the Nazis learn that she helped smuggle Jews out of the city, Adele is taken from her promising future and thrust into the horrifying world of Auschwitz.
The veil of innocence is lifted to expose a shuddering presence of evil, and Adele realizes that her God-given gift is her only advantage; she must play. Becoming a member of the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz, she fights for survival. Adele’s barbed-wire walls begin to kill her hope as the months drag into nearly two years in the camp. With surprising courage against the backdrop of murder and despair, Adele finally confronts a question that has been tugging at her heart: Even in the midst of evil, can she find hope in worshipping God with her gift?
As Sera and William learn more about the subject of the mysterious portrait—Adele—they are reminded that whatever horrors one might face, God’s faithfulness never falters.
It was the beautiful cover of this novel that first caught my eye on NetGalley – followed by the title, which promises culture and romance. Then, once I read the blurb, I wondered whether it would be too hard a novel to read, given its Auschwitz setting. But the clear power of the story and courage of Adele that shine through in the blurb called to me, and so I requested the book for review. I’m so very glad that I did.
What a moving, beautiful, important, courageous and inspiring book.
From the outset, I was utterly drawn into the world of the book. I want to describe that world as fictional but of course it is not, entirely. The author has researched meticulously, and rendered a story whose 1940s sections are so real one can’t fail but be moved. The result, for me, was a haunting book that impelled me to read, read, read until the last words, and that stayed with me long after I finished. I was reminded of my reaction the first time I watched the movie Titanic: the emotional impact was vast, because the love story was rooted in a terrible reality.
I love the two stories, and how expertly the author intertwines them, so that whenever you are in one time, you are wondering about the other; so that the reader can take a much-needed break from the unbearable emotion wrought by Auschwitz back in the present, and then move back in time when she has gathered the courage to do so.
Courage – that is the word that echoes through me as I write this review.
The heroines in the book must be so courageous: Sera, the modern-day gallery owner, who has been so wounded by love that her faith is shaken and she struggles to trust any man again; Adele, Austria’s darling who has plummeted from grace for daring to protect Jewish friends, and must somehow find the strength to endure unspeakable evil.
So too was the author courageous in writing this book. To write of beauty and love amid the very worst of depravity and deprivation; to situate a love story in our world’s most horrific story of hate – I admire her greatly.
And of course the author who reads must have courage also. I did not find this an easy book to read, at times. Some of the details of life at the concentration camp, for example, I found deeply upsetting. But then, who am I to put down the book and walk away? These details are fact; they are truths that so many people lived through. I felt duty-bound to read on; to grieve for the past, but also to celebrate the beauty and the faith and the love that the author finds there. And without wishing to give any spoiler in this review, I felt that at the end of the book the author rewards the reader’s courage in walking the journey alongside Sera and Adele, and I was left wonderfully at peace and with a smile on my face.
This is romance at its most powerful. This is romance that is exquisitely beautiful and staggeringly poignant. This is romance, but so very much more.
This is a book we should all read, for its beauty, for its cathartic power, but above all, for its truth.
The Butterfly and the Violin is available now from Amazon; click on the book cover below to visit the store.