The holidays kept me from doing as much reading as I wanted in December, but I managed to squeeze in a few titles between wrapping.
Christmas Bells by Jennifer Chiaverini: Our December Step into the Story featured book, Christmas Bells tells a dual story, one historical and one modern. The historical story is a retelling of how Henry Wadsworth Longfellow came to write his iconic poem, Christmas Bells. (I heard the bells on Christmas Day, Their old familiar carols play…). I had no idea that this poem, which I’ve sung countless times in church was really a poem lamenting the Civil War. When he wrote it, Longsworth was depressed over the continued violence and bloodshed. Chiaverini did a great job of recounting the events leading up to Longfellow taing up his pen.
The modern storyline tells the story of eight people gathering for a Christmas concert. Each chapter is dedicated to one character’s point of view, until at the end, the stories converge. I confess the episodic format didn’t grab me as it didn’t let me get to know the characters on a deeper level. But then I realized that Chiaverini was using the same style as Longfellow did for his Tales from a Wayside Inn. The writer in me appreciated the creativity, and gives extra points for trying something new and fun.
To purchase on Amazon**: https://amzn.to/3Cy6E9N
Jennifer Chiaverini’s website: https://jenniferchiaverini.com/
The Secret Society of Salzburg by Renee Ryan: If you watch Step into the Story, you know that, I LOVED The Secret Society of Salzburg. This is Renee’s second historical – her first, The Widows of Champagne, was terrific – but in this one, she truly steps up her game. This book is a deeply complex story about Jewish refugees and the civilians who risked their lives to save them.
In The Secret Society of Salzburg we meet German opera singer Elsa Mayer-Braun Hoffmann and British civil servant and aspiring artist Hattie Featherstone. When the two women meet, they form an instant bond. As the winds of war begin sweeping Europe, both women find their lives changed dramatically. For Elsa, the attacks on Jews hits close to home. For Hattie, witnessing the prejudice awakens her fighting spirit. Together, they form a network to bring Jewish refugees to Britain. The book was inspired by Ida and Louise Cook, two real-life Holocaust heroines.
As interesting as the story is, however, it’s the meticulous research and the way Ryan weaves in the themes courage, justice, moral ethics and forgiveness that gives the book its real weight. If you are a fan of World War 2 books, definitely read this one.
Thank you Netgalley for the advanced read in exchange for my honest review.
To purchase on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3ZgX8le
Renee Ryan’s website: https://www.reneeryan.com/
I don’t want to say too much and spoil the plot, but suffice to say Werner’s and Marie’s stories are linked in an unusual way, and the resolution made me cry.
To be honest, I found the entire book incredibly sad in a beautiful and poignant way. It made me feel deeply. Every historical fiction lover should read it.
And, don’t forget to watch my Step into the Story interview with Serena Burdick, author of The Lost Book of Evelyn Aubrey on January 17th!