As I closed the cover to Vienna Prelude, I knew I had been introduced to a cast of characters who wouldn’t soon be forgotten. Some were good. Some were evil. Nevertheless, each have made an impression on me that will easily come to mind whenever the topic of WWII and Hitler’s reign of terror come up in conversation.
The story begins with a violinist from Vienna – Elisa Lindheim. Half Aryan, half Jew. She lives in Vienna where she plays with an orchestra but her family lives in Berlin, the city she grew up in. Every year for Christmas, the family goes to Tyrol to ski; but in 1936, everything changes. Her father is arrested on the train and her mother and brothers can never return to Germany…and thus, the reader is thrown into a world of the Gestapo, greed and a racial prejudice that would be hard to believe existed, if not displayed so clearly through the pages of history.
Vienna Prelude is a page turner. Packed with historical accuracy and deep characters; it teaches you a history lesson told through the lives of fictional people you will come to love so much, you will ache to read of the evil so many like them endured under Hitler.
Too many characters were introduced in this book to go over them all at once, but suffice it to say they were all memorable. What I loved most about the heroine was how she grew in the story. We open the book to find her a young, broken-hearted woman who is so wrapped up in her own life; she’s oblivious to what’s happening in the world around her. After realizing how much the city she grew up in changed at the hands of evil (in Berlin) she begins to realize that nothing will be the same. But it isn’t until after the death of an orchestra member who entrusted a great secret to her that Elisa develops into a determined woman who will do anything to fight for others instead of living her own life. One thing I love the most, is that even though she’s brave, she still has moments of weakness, which makes her character more real to me.
Her old German boyfriend, Thomas, is the troubled soul of the story. It’s hard to tell where his loyalties lie. He rejected Elisa when Germany ruled that Jews and Germans couldn’t marry. He wanted to serve the Fatherland…yet, he still loved her. Though working for the man who wants all Jews dead, Thomas risks not reporting important information to his supervisor to protect Elisa’s father; he also works undercover with a group of men in the military to stop Hitler’s madness. But are his efforts enough to win the woman he loves? Through with the Reich, Thomas is ready to run off with Elisa and leave it all behind. But Elisa won’t leave Austria. And what about that lie he told her about her father? I can’t wait to continue the Zion Covenant Series and see if Thomas turns out to be a man of character or a traitor.
Then, there’s John Murphy. American reporter. Absolutely smitten with Elisa and her violin. So smitten, he proposed marriage on their first date! Though Murphy seems to be a bit of a fool, he proves to be the level headed leader who can get things done even when it’s not pretty. At the end of the book, you’ll be shaking your head yes and agreeing that he has the backbone Thomas lacked.
Conclusion: If you’re looking for a book that explains the events leading up to the Holocaust, this book is for you. Sometimes we read so much about the event itself, we forget how it started. Vienna Prelude gives a true to life story form of these events through the lens of different settings. You’ll get a glimpse of Berlin – the city where Jews can’t sit on benches; Vienna – where Austrians believe they are safe from Hitler’s power; Paris – where people don’t really care what’s happening in Austria because they’re so far away… You will also get a good introduction to the historical leaders involved in the time period and how they were or were not influential at this point of Hitler’s reign. People like Mussolini, Churchill, Eden and Roosevelt, just to name a few. All technicalities aside, this book gives you the ability to step back in time and experience what these people experienced through a story that will make you sorrow for the ones persecuted; not just because what was done was wrong, but because you grow to care about the characters and take their sorrows on as your own. Brilliant book! I can’t wait to continue with Prague Counterpoint, the second book in the series. As for the first, five stars!
I read the 1989 edition from Bethany House, 410 pages.
World War Two, Hitler, history and anyone who is interested in learning more about Jewish history. And if you like music, that’s an extra!
Kindle – from Amazon
Paperback – from CBD