The Butterfly and the Violin
About This Book
A mysterious painting breathes hope and beauty into the darkest corners of Auschwitz—and the loneliest hearts of Manhattan.
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.
Had this been a straightforward historical novel, it would have easily been a five-star review. Adele and Vladimir were two strong, passionate characters I immediately fell in love with, and their story, while bounced around in time through some oddly-placed flashbacks, was nevertheless compelling and kept me turning the pages. And the minor characters, particularly some of Adele’s fellow prisoners in the concentration camp, really enriched the story. The research behind the concentration camp orchestras and artists was astounding and very moving, and I appreciated how the author allowed Adele to struggle in her relationship with God, to succumb to doubt and despair in the midst of her horrific circumstances, while still bringing her through to a place of hope and faith once again.
Obviously, a story set in a concentration camp is going to be violent, with executions and hordes of victims fed to the crematoriums on a daily basis, and the author did not shy away from this brutal reality. Outside of Auschwitz, the horrors of the Nazi homefront were equally portrayed. A Jewish family is gunned down in the street, a man is nearly shot execution-style in Adele’s living room, and Adele and her friend visit a nightclub where the friend purposely gets drunk in the hope of picking up a handsome soldier. Some of this violence is rather explicitly described, but always fully within the context of the story and never merely for shock value.
While this book is clearly intended for mature readers, the innocence of Adele’s characters as she’s thrust into this horrific new world may be a way for older teens and new adults to be introduced to such painful subject matter, something akin to Anne Frank’s diary. Parents should be prepared for many difficult questions.
The contemporary side of this novel, however, left much to be desired. Sera and James came across as rather one-dimensional and predictable to me, and I never felt connected to them or their budding romance. I was also disappointed that so much of the alleged mystery behind the painting was revealed so early in the story, and I think this may have contributed to my loss of interest in Sera and William as the book went on.
Fans of The Book Thief and The Diary of Anne Frank will appreciate this stirring look at the German homefront during World War II and ultimately life behind the barbed wires of Auschwitz. With a lyrical pen, Kristy Cambron blends a contemporary thread into this historical tale of hope and freedom in the midst of a Nazi concentration camp, and the search for beauty and love that will sustain even the loneliest heart.
Available July 8, 2014 from Thomas Nelson