Monday, June 10, 2013

Compelling WWII Novel an Impressive Debut

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After the catastrophic events of Kristallnacht, Berlin's remaining Jewish residents knows they can never be too cautious.  With tensions between them and the Nazis running so high, a single misstep can mean a bullet in the head.  Or, worse, a one-way trip to a concentration camp.  Simon Horowitz is a wealthy Jewish banker whose position has made him exempt from registering his religious preference with the government.  But, in November of 1939, his luck runs out.  SS officers forcibly remove him from his bank, evict his family from their home, and steal priceless family antiques—including a 1742 Guarneri del Gesú violin.  Even as Simon withers away in Dachau, he can't stop thinking about the remarkable instrument in the hands of the heartless Nazis.  

Seventy years later, 14-year-old Daniel Horowitz is tiring of life as a violin prodigy.  He's sick of attending a special school, spending hours practicing and not being allowed to play baseball with his friends for fear of injury to his hands.  Even though he's just won a prestigious international competition, David's ready to quit music altogether.  His family's musical legacy be darned, he just wants to be a normal kid. 

When Maestro Rafael Gomez—a world-renowned conductor—hears Daniel play, he's blown away by the boy's talent.  With some instruction, Rafael knows the teenager can become one of the greatest violinists the world has ever known.  The only problem is convincing Daniel to continue playing.  Not an easy task.  When Rafael discovers the Horowitz Family once owned a precious Guarneri, he sees a brilliant solution to his problem.  If Rafael can find the lost violin, perhaps he can not just right a decades-old wrong, but also entice young Daniel to re-enter the musical world.
As the Maestro digs into the history of the priceless Guarneri, he's floored by everything he learns about the treasured violin and its indomitable owners.  It's an incredible tale about family, faith, and the enduring power of music.  The Maestro knows he can negotiate a happy ending to the tale, but only if he's willing to sacrifice his own career.  How much will redemption cost them all?  And is it worth the enormous price?

The Keeper of Secrets by Julie Thomas, is a sweeping, impressive debut.  A little too ambitious, maybe, but still, it's a vivid, engrossing read.  Although I would have liked the narration to be a bit more intimate (I never felt really, really connected to the characters, especially the contemporary ones), I ended up enjoying the story quite a lot.  The Keeper of Secrets isn't a perfect book, but it's definitely a compelling one.  

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't really think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:  B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  R for language (no F-bombs), violence, and some sexual content.

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of The Keeper of Secrets from the generous folks at Harper Collins via those at TLC Book Tours.  Thank you! 

5 comments:

  1. This is one I think I could enjoy. Your little bookworm is playing, reading, and writing :) Now to get her to bed.

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    Replies
    1. I'll hold on to the book for you! Thanks for taking care of my girl -- she's having a great time :)

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  2. I tend to devour anything WWII related so I'm definitely up for reading this one. Thanks for being on the tour!

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