Monday, January 29, 2018
THE MELODY OF THE SOUL by Liz Tolsma
As MELODY OF THE SOUL opens, it is 1943 and Nazi-held Prague is emptying its streets of the Jewish population. Anna Zadokova and her grandmother did not receive their deportation notices when the rest of Anna's family did, and despite her protests that she wants to be with her parents, she and Babicka must remain in the apartment,waiting for the Jewish Council's inevitable notice. Despite being Christian, their Jewish heritage means that they are marked and soon they, too, will need to leave. The destination for her family -Terezin and later, Auschwitz, the final solution. Today, that the Germans allowed, or demanded, music performances at Terezin seems a difficult-to-understand incongruity, especially since they had proclaimed that all Jews had to surrender their instruments, even before being rounded up. Anna defies that demand and keeps her violin. Tolsma's novel gives a glimpse into how music could be a life force that sustained both sides. For Anna, playing is a bond to her earlier life, a childhood and adulthood surrounded by love and grounded in faith. Music is a balm and a support. For the young German officer who takes over the apartment below hers, music calms the rising desperation and guilt he feels. Once set on making his Nazi father proud, now all Horst Engel wants is an end to the war and the senseless cruelty he sees everywhere. Meeting Anna and her fragile grandmother, followed by a trip to Terezin, changes Horst forever. Soon his apartment is the refuge for the young violin player and her grandmother, and his career is in danger.
A Nazi officer who begins to question the Fuhrer and who makes a decision to defy that vision has become a popular idea for authors to explore. Liz Tolsma's story makes it all seem plausible, although she did create a fictional military posting (Minister of Architectural Preservation) to make the story flow and to make Horst a likeable character from the beginning. Her notes point to historical basis for a heroine who defied the Nazi order that all Jews relinquish their instruments and also for a German soldier finding solace through a Jewish neighbor's music. Her tale offers danger, suspense, sacrifice, and strength based on faith -- all the markers necessary for a Christian WWII novel. You'll be drawn into that suspense and danger, but don't miss the message behind it all.
I received a copy of THE MELODY OF THE SOUL from Litfuse. I was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.