Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl—a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes.
In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with William Hanover—the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul—who may be the key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece. Together Sera and William slowly unravel the story behind the painting’s subject: Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron.
A darling of the Austrian aristocracy of 1942, talented violinist, and daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks everything when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna. In a heartbeat, her life of prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and barbed wire.
As Sera untangles the secrets behind the painting, she finds beauty in the most unlikely of places: the grim camps of Auschwitz and the inner recesses of her own troubled heart.
-from the back cover of The Butterfly and the Violin
I’ve now read two WWII novels in the last two weeks, both by debut authors.
And both good reads.
The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron (Thomas Nelson, 2014) beautifully and powerfully covers deep emotions felt among possible prisoners of WWII and blends it with identifiable relationship and faith struggles in common day.
The author writes this book from Adele’s point of view in the early 1940s and from Sera’s point of view in current day Manhattan. The author offers a strong, distinguished voice in each period allowing the reader to easily tell which time period is being read, as well as glimpses into that particular culture. Sera’s story is almost as much as about Adele’s story, but I enjoyed the way the author shows Sera learning from history to grow in her current life.
I felt the first two chapters are a bit obvious in telling backstory, but future chapters revealed smaller bits of backstory slower and in intriguing ways. I was also somewhat surprised at Adele’s boldness in a conversation with her mother in an early chapter. It seemed uncharacteristic considering the dangers Adele and Vladimir had just discussed and the stifling society presented to that point. Even with these small issues in the early chapters, the actions and emotions portrayed are so powerful and interesting, the reader won’t want to put this book down.
This book also asks reasonable questions about faith within unreasonable circumstances.
“Where is He? Why does He not answer the prayers of the many here?” – p. 175
The supporting characters, particularly Penny, Omara, and William, are strong and defined. They greatly add to the story in events, intrigue, and relatability.
This book tackles heart-penetrating themes, including living beyond our past mistakes, believing in God even when we only see evil surrounding us, and opening our eyes to God’s presence and beauty everywhere. As a huge fan of historical fiction, I love the author’s note at the end of the book and find this subculture of Holocaust art extremely interesting (and something I’d like to read about more).
“This, child, is our worship. To live and survive and play to God from the depths of our souls. This is the call that binds us. When we worship in the good times, it brings God joy. But worship in the midst of agony? That is authentic adoration of our Creator.” – p. 235
What period of historical fiction do you find most interesting?
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. I was not compensated in any other way.
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