Sharon Maas comes to the blog with another gripping historic fiction, this one dealing with the resistance in both Germany and France against the Germans and Nazi-ism.
The Violin Maker’s Daughter
Sarah, her parents and her four sisters live in Colmar in the Alsace region – one that ping-ponged between French and German rule for much of World War II. Non-practicing Jews, with a Christian mother, the family doesn’t have the onus of “Juden” on their papers: in fact, only a few of their most trusted friends even know that her father is Jewish. Their surname of Mayer is very Germanic, and the girls all had names more French than Jewish, leaving them reasonably ‘safe’ in a wholly unsafe place. To add to their protection, Sarah’s father, a violin maker, was certain to keep his daughters close and indoors, not mixing about with others or being seen in the streets often, particularly since the annexation. Instead, Sarah’s days were spent learning the craft of the luthier from her father, playing music, and helping with her younger sisters.
But the time has come and Colmar is no longer safe for the family. Arrangements are made for them to leave in stages, in secret. Sarah is to go first – and, while she protests and fights the inevitable, off she goes with hopes to meet up with her family in a few weeks. Naïve, spoilt and more than a bit in the midst of a typical teenaged strop, Sarah is led and guided by her emotions and how she feels of the moment. At only 17, and sheltered for most of her life, she’s not prepared for the constraint or changes in the world that she will see, and only longs for comfort from those she encounters. This Sarah is very age appropriate and it is easy to see just how unsettling and what an upheaval the situation is for her…moods swinging from abject homesickness to feeling ‘old enough’ to know her own mind, much information and advice is ignored, although she does ‘hear it’ – it will take some growth and understanding of the actual dangers before much would sink in.
From the start, Sarah’s choices and emotions are tested, and when she finally listens to Raif, a German soldier that has deserted, she’s starting to grow up – even as she is developing ideas about their relationship and the ‘future’ for them. But, he’s listened and knows the ways of the world, and leaves to join the French Resistance, with information that they can use in their mission to stop the Germans. Sarah is brought into a collaborateur’s household as a governess/nanny, hiding her Jewish roots and her actual name, and finds a ‘friend’ in the sister of the worman she works for. Sarah is still so immature and trusting – desperate for friends, so she is often indiscreet – which leads to Raif and his cell of fighters being captured: headlines say they were ‘tried and executed” – but with her secrets out – flight is her only option. Armed with nothing but her anger and her ability to ‘appear’ as a gentile, with her fluency in both French and German, she’s joined the fight – and travels into Germany to gather information.
What Maas has done is created a character in Sarah who is both lovable and eminently frustrating – but grows and learns with each new experience, fueled with her worry for her family, grief with the loss of Raif, and the horrors she sees around her. From learning to use her new found confidence in her own beauty, strangely enough fueled by her collaborateur ‘friend’, she’s shed the girlish things and found purpose , and with the war’s end, answers about family and people she met along the way. Gripping, emotional and wholly engaging, this is a story unlike others I’ve read before – with moments of actual history mixed in with a main character ‘inspired by’ an actual woman, and tactics used during the war.
Title: The Violin Maker's Daughter
Author: Sharon Maas
Genre: Family Saga, Friendship, Historic Elements, Historical Fiction, Romantic Elements, Setting: France, Setting: Germany, Suspense, World War II
Published by: Bookouture
Published on: 19 July, 2019
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 12 Hours: 49 minutes
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When the Nazis march onto the cobbled streets of Colmar on November 1st 1940, Josef, a Jewish violin maker, gathers his wife and daughters closely to him and tells them everything will be alright.
But one year later, three sharp knocks on the door at midnight turn his seventeen year old daughter Sarah’s world upside down. As the oldest child, Sarah must be the first to leave her family, to make her escape in a perilous journey across France via Paris to Poitiers. And she must hide who she is and take a new name for her own safety. For now, bilingual Sarah is no longer a French Jew but a German girl.
As she bids farewell to her beloved father and family, Sarah has hope, against all odds, that she will see them again when the war is over. But, travelling through the mountains she finds herself in terrible danger and meets Ralf, a German deserter, who risks his own life to save her.
Ralf and Sarah continue their journey together, keeping their identities secret at all cost. But when Ralf is captured, will Sarah pay the ultimate price for sharing who she really is?
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.