My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I am very glad I read this WWII saga and have learned much about Vienna during that era: the Anschluss, the SS and Gestapo, the enduring importance of culture and theater as the war evolved, the Russians. Vienna itself is a major character in the novel and its war-time alteration mirrors that of protagonist Julia Homberg’s: from opulent, gilt-edged complacency to a battle-worn and teetering existence.
There is courage and pragmatism, loyalty and tenderness, infidelity and deceit, threat and violence, suspicion and FEAR.
And, as the war winds down, there is starvation and stench.
Sarah Gainham masterfully engaged all my senses with this – at first jewel-bedecked, then filthy beaver-coated – war story. When I visit Vienna, I will remember the tears and dust and the blasts that once tore this city apart and then I will celebrate her determined revival. But, I shall also mourn what once was – the Vienna I will never see – which no one can ever know again except through photos of that era and in beautifully descriptive stories such as this.