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Book Review of The Opera Sisters by Marianne Monson
Longtime readers will know I have two favorite historical periods to learn about. The first is the Revolutionary War and the second is WWII. I know I should probably branch out and read/learn about different time periods, but you know what? I’m good for now. Why? Well, I just finished a historical fiction book about WWII, and it is so good! The Opera Sisters by Marianne Monson has a unique look into the lives of ordinary citizens in Europe at the beginning of and throughout the war. I haven’t ever heard of these women, but it is based on real people and events.
Based on the true story of the Cook sisters, who smuggled valuables out of 1930s Nazi Germany to finance a daring, secret operation to help Jews find hope for a new life in England.
British sisters Ida and Louise Cook enjoy their quiet lives in south London. Ida writes romance novels, and Louise works as a secretary. In the evenings, the sisters indulge in their shared love for opera, saving their money to attend performances throughout England and Europe, becoming well-known by both performers and fellow opera lovers.
When Hitler seizes power in 1933, he begins passing laws that restrict the rights and lives of German Jews. The sisters continue visiting the German opera houses, but soon, Jewish members of the opera community covertly approach the sisters, worried that they will be stripped of their wealth and forced to leave their homes and the country.
Ida and Louise vow to help, but how can two ordinary working-class women with limited means make a difference?
Together with their beloved opera community, the sisters devise a plan to personally escort Jewish refugees from Germany to England. The success of the plan hinges on Ida and Louise’s ability to smuggle contraband jewelry and furs beneath the watchful eyes of the SS soldiers guarding various checkpoints. But how many trips can they make before someone blows a whistle? Or before the final curtain falls on Germany’s borders?
The Opera Sisters is a riveting and inspiring novel of two unlikely heroines whose courage and compassion gave hope to many Jews desperate to escape Nazi persecution.
My Book Review:
I’m not much of an opera fan, but after reading this story I may need to become one! Ida and Louise Cook have been added to my hero list. I can’t imagine the courage and guts it took to do what they did—because of their bravery, they saved many Jewish people over the course of the war. The sisters’ relationship is so sweet and I loved how they found this love of the opera to enjoy together.
This book is well written! The writing style sucked me in from the beginning. The book flows well, is easy to follow, and it just tugs at the heart strings. The character development in this story so good. Ida and Louise, especially, come to life on the page. I felt as if they had been my friends since childhood. There are also other characters that stole my heart. Friedl, Maria, and Irma, along with many other Jewish refugees, became my dear friends.
I loved the descriptions of the operas with the singers, the costumes, the dresses, and the girls’ love of it. Even though I’ve never been to or listened to an opera, I felt as if I were there. I found Ms. Monson to be quite adept at descriptions in this book. Not only were the descriptions of the operas good, but the way she described the bombings, the shelters, the war, and even the tension in the air made me feel as if I were there.
I loved The Opera Sisters and could not put it down. The fact that this story is based on real people and events makes it even that much better. Ms. Monson definitely did her homework and was able to bring this story to life. I’m excited to add another amazing WWII story to my list of favorites!
Content Rating: PG-13 (It’s clean–no profanity or “intimacy,” but it is a war and it is the Holocaust so there are bombings, death, and injured people along with heavier themes.)
Age Recommendation: YA+
My Rating: 4.5/5
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.