23 Sep 2013



SOURCE: Received for review from Turnaround (Publisher Services).

Berlin, 1939. Fourteen-year-old Simon Horowitz is awash in a world of music. His family owns a superb collection of instruments and at its heart is his father’s 1742 Guarneri del Gesú violin. But all is lost when the Nazis march across Europe, the Horowitz family’s possessions are confiscated, and Simon and his father and brother are sent to Dachau. Amid unimaginable cruelty and death, Simon finds kindness from an unexpected corner, and a chance to pick up a violin in exchange for a chance to live.

In the present day, orchestra conductor Rafael Gomez has seen much in his time on the world’s stage, but he finds himself oddly inspired by the playing of an aspiring violin virtuoso, a fantastic talent who is just fourteen. When the boy, Daniel Horowitz, Simon’s grandson, suddenly rebels and refuses to play another note, Rafael decides he’ll do anything he can to change that. After Rafael learns the boy’s family once owned a precious violin, believed to have been lost forever, he thinks he might know how to get Daniel playing again. In taking on the task he discovers a family story like no other, one that winds from World War II and Communist Russia all the way to Rafael’s very own stage.

...... Outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE (Prologue: Berlin, February 1935): "What does it mean when someone calls you swine?" Simon Horowitz asked suddenly, as his father's black Mercedes-Benz rolled to a stop at the top of a blind alley off the Friedichstraße.

MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 170): Food was a powerful motivating force, and fights regularly broke out over a scrap of sausage or a piece of potato skin, so it was no wonder that he was betrayed to a second lieutenant for a piece of buttered bread.

MY THOUGHTS: Described by some as the tale of a priceless violin and those who covet it, by others as a 'Holocaust' novel and by others as a family saga. The Keeper of Secrets combines the stories of two families connected by one violin in a novel of epic proportions that takes us from the horrors of the concentration camps of World War II, from Communist Russia to the present day, the author successfully and with much aplomb merging the threads of the storyline.

Strongly written and obviously very well researched. Whilst I personally thought there was little new in the telling of the story as far as the Holocaust aspect went that isn't to say The Keeper Of Secrets isn't a truly compelling read.

It's just a slight disappointment that entwined with this aspect of the book and the Cold War element was a rather less compelling contemporary story full of characters that try as I might I found myself unable to emotionally connect with in the same way I did grandfather and Holocaust survivor Simon Horowitz who will long stay in my memory.

Disclaimer:  Read and reviewed on behalf of the turnaround-uk.com, I was merely asked for my honest opinion, no financial compensation was asked for nor given.
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Naida said...

This does sound like a compelling read. Especially if the character of Simon Horowitz stood out like that. Nice review as always.

Kelly said...

This sounds like it would be quite interesting.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Interesting! I don't think this would be the right fit for me, but I appreciate your thoughts.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

Still sounds like a good book regardless of not fully integrating the cold war. Will have to check it out!

Brian Joseph said...

Sounds good but your comments about the more contemporary aspects remind me of a lot of books.

Sometimes these books that cover a wide variety of time, or that occur in different time periods, do much better with one period as opposed to another. Of course trying times often lead to more compelling narratives and characters.

Barbara said...

Hi Tracy, You always find THE most interesting books to review, and although you are sort of 50/50 on this one, it’s still made me want to read it.
Thanks for visiting me earlier today. Barbara

So many books, so little time said...

I quite like the sound of this one despite your misgivings.

Are you having issues with people s=taking stuff from your site? Just noticed your disclaimed has been updated.

Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net

Yvonne@fiction-books said...

Hi Tracy,

The main characters in the book sound so compelling and interesting, that I think I could probably overlook some of the less imaginative narrative and storyline, although I take on board your comments and thoughts.

The book has received some great reviews and ratings in the US, although it doesn't really seem to have gained a foothold, here in the UK, which seems a little strange perhaps, as Julie Thomas is a New Zealand author, who you might think would have had greater synergy with a UK audience.

It also doesn't help that when I searched for the book on the English sites, just by title, there are two other books called 'The Keeper Of Secrets'

Your reviews are always so interesting and amke me want to check out the books and authors for myself, thanks.


Mary (Bookfan) said...

Sounds like a good read despite the Cold War part.

Literary Feline said...

This sounds like a book I would really like!

I find that with books that are both historical and contemporary, I tend to favor the historical portion of the stories best. I'm not sure why, exactly. Maybe something I should exlpore . . .

Betty Manousos said...

oh this sounds like a great read!
as always, i thoroughly enjoyed your review.

big hugs~