When 17-year-old Stella Whittaker is offered the chance to study at the Academy of Music in Vienna it's a dream come true, made possible by old family friends, Rainer and Marthe Kraus, who offer her a place to live.
Seduced by the elegant beauty of the city, Stella explores the magnificent palaces, gardens, and fashionable coffeehouses, and after a chance meeting in an art gallery, falls in love with Harri Reznik, a young Jewish doctor. But as the threat of war casts a dark shadow over Europe, Stella soon discovers that both the household where she lives and the city she has come to call home are not as welcoming as they once seemed. And at the dawn of this terrifying new world, no one is safe.
©2013 Margaret Leroy (P)2014 Isis Publishing Limited
"A wonderful, wonderful book! Margaret Leroy does an amazing job of showing us the Nazi takeover of Austria through the eyes of an engaging, bright and brave seventeen-year-old English girl. I lost three nights of sleep, unable to put this superbly written book aside and turn out the light" (Diane Chamberlain)
"Margaret Leroy writes with candour and intelligence, capturing the menace of suddenly finding that the world may not be at all as you've thought it" (Helen Dunmore)
"Margaret Leroy captures, brilliantly, a spirit of place and time in her recreation of the beauty, deception and coming darkness of pre-war Vienna, and what it means to be young, in love, and very far from home. I loved it" (Elizabeth Speller)
"Stunning and evocative, utterly beguiling" (Rosamund Lupton)
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"A little slow"
I was interested in this story from the viewpoint of Hitler invading Austria. I haven't read much about this and was fascinated to learn how quickly it happened. But overall I found the story a little ponderous, too many 'darlings' to keep me completely fascinated. I also felt that for a 17 year old Stella was a little too mature for my liking, but maybe that's a factor of the era. The second half was better than the first to my mind.
what a pleasant read. I will start with the narrator. she is like something new, an invigorating narration, not like some stuff reading.
the story is amazing. I usually avoid reading stories of wars. it is not a subject I like to read as it depresses me, but not this one. the love story is beautiful enough.
the ending was not predictable. some. aspects of the story were, but it is a book I would recommend.
"A TENDER LOVE STORY SET AGAINST A TYRANICAL FORCE"
I haven't read the print version but I would say the audio edition would add a tense atmosphere.
I think it stands on its own!
Atmosphere and emotion
Yes but thinking about it I think at times the story was so strong and emotional that I would have to leave it for a little while and start again. But it was so compelling I just couldn't stop listening no matter what!
This book came to life for me because at the end of WW2 my father was one of the soldiers who were the first into the Concentration Camps and had to dig the communal graves and bury the Jewish corpses. He never got over it! This should never happen again!!!
"Interesting historical exploration"
I found the central romance of the book unconvincing and I was waiting for it to unravel. I would have liked more build-up to Stella and Harri's love to make it real, rather than just something the author expected the reader to believe in.
Exploring the period just before the Second World War, when things were changing but people didn't understand it, was very interesting. Also the slippery moral choices that the characters were faced with.
The narrator did an excellent job with the voices of the female characters and children. She didn't do so well with the male voices, and I thought she made Harri sound rather sinister, which I don't think was the author's intention.
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