The synopsis on the back of the book:
The year is 1938, and as Hitler’s troops sweep into Vienna, Austrian Max Dornbach promises to help his Jewish friends hide their most valuable possessions from the Nazis, smuggling them to his family’s summer estate near the picturesque village of Hallstatt. He enlists the help of Annika Knopf, his childhood friend and the caretaker’s daughter, who is eager to help the man she’s loved her entire life. But when Max also brings Luzia Weiss, a young Jewish woman, to hide at the castle, it complicates Annika’s feelings and puts their entire plan―even their very lives―in jeopardy. Especially when the Nazis come to scour the estate and find both Luzia and the treasure gone.
Eighty years later, Callie Randall is mostly content with her quiet life, running a bookstore with her sister and reaching out into the world through her blog. Then she finds a cryptic list in an old edition of Bambi that connects her to Annika’s story . . . and maybe to the long-buried story of a dear friend. As she digs into the past, Callie must risk venturing outside the safe world she’s built for a chance at answers, adventure, and maybe even new love.
- Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
- Published: 9/2018
- Publisher: Tyndale House
- Pages: 400
- Goodreads Rating: 4.69
Why I Chose This Book:
I was sent this book to review by the publisher. I always enjoy reading a book set during WWII. So I was intrigued to read this one!
First Initial Thoughts:
The story starts off right before WWII breaks out. I have not read too many WWII books set in Austria so it was interesting to read about the Nazi Occupation in Austria during that time. Annika, Hermann, Luzia, and Max are the main characters in the story. Each of them has an important part in the story.
Annika is a young girl that is secretly in love with Max Dubach- her childhood friend. Though Max is deeply in love with Luzia. - a Jewish girl. I liked Annika's character but she kind of bugged me at the beginning. She let her jealousy get the best of her. Annika's family is the caretaker of Dubach's estate. One evening she finds a Star of David among Max mother's things. Is Max family Jewish? And what does that mean for her friend?
Max and Hermann are helping the Jewish by rescuing their precious gold and heirlooms and burying them in the Lake so the Nazi's can't find them. Soon they enlist Annika in helping them. She, of course, agrees because she would do anything for Max.
In the modern day story, we are introduced to Callie. Callie owns a bookstore with her sister Brie. Callie is a lover of books and has often dreamed of escaping to the places mentioned in her books. Growing up her childhood wasn't the greatest. Her father was absent most of her life and she never knew her mother. She raised Brie practically on her own. She met Charlotte when she was just a little girl and Charlotte became the 'mother' she desperately needed.
Charlotte I think is suppose to be in her 80s (she was 7 when the Nazi's raided the orphanage). She was adopted and never knew her birth mother/family. She always has wanted to know but never could find them. When Callie meets Josh- a history professor will she have the chance to reunite Charlotte with her family?
Schloss Schwansee is inspired by the castle Schloss Grub on Hallstatt lake. It is pictured above. Melanie has a way of not only creating the world of Austria in WWII but has a way of immersing you in the story like you are right there alongside the characters. You can feel their pain, their suffering, and sorrow.
Melanie really did an amazing job on the research. Most if not all the history mentioned in the book is accurate. I really appreciate when authors do this - being a history buff myself. And it also makes you feel more attached to the characters and setting, I think.
First off, this book starts off very slow. Not really much happens during the first half of the book. What occurs during these pages sets up the rest of the book and it speeds up from there. So you have to be patient when reading this book. However, the end is so worth it. I teared up at the end!
With that being said, it is a hard book to read. It's set during a dark time in our history and not many people want to think about it or talk about it. I won't spoil the ending but the mystery of Charlotte and who her mother was - is heartwrenching. This book reminds us to love our neighbor. No matter their lifestyle, sex, race, religion, etc. Human life is something that is precious and sacred. What we do for others speaks volumes about our character and love for each other.
Each character grew a lot in this story. Especially Annika. She started off being very timid and Naive. Through all the trials she faced in the story - she grew up and became more confident and courageous. Luzi wasn't really written into the story that much in the first half but she became an important character later on. So much bad things happened to her- I just wanted to give her a hug! Though despite of it all, she pushed through and I admired that about her character.
The one thing that did gripe me just a little is that Melanie tended to describe everything. From what the people were wearing (not just the color but shape, brand, etc.) to what the subject was viewing or doing. While I don't mind some descriptive writing - I felt it was a tad overdone.
Also, this was a dual time period story. I thought both time periods were well written. I didn't feel like a preferred one story over the other. I found that Callie mirrored Annika in many ways. Both in personality and life mission/purpose.
Would I Recommend?
Yes. Though be forewarned it has some dark subjects. It does include subject matters like violence, rape, and oppression.
You can purchase the book ---> HERE
Have you ever visited the Austrian Alps? After seeing the pictures I definitely would LOVE to go! Hope you all had a wonderful and relaxing Labor Day Weekend!
Note: I was sent a copy of this book to review by the publisher. All opinions are my own.