Hi everyone, I hope you’ve been having a lovely time this chilly (and incredibly pandemic…) October! I am back with another review! The Violinist of Auschwitz is a book I picked randomly. Well, not totally randomly, because I really like WW2 stories and Holocaust literature, but I had simply no idea what to expect from this one. Holocaust literature has become quite popular recently, there is a big variety of titles to pick from and sometimes it can be a hit or a miss. So… what did I think of The Violinist of Auschwitz?
Night. Tears, tears from every bunk around her, hushed prayers, names of the loved ones repeated for hours on end – in endless Kaddish she could no longer bear to hear.Ellie Midwood, The Violinist of Auschwitz
The book tells a story of Alma Rosé, an Austrain violinist of Jewish descent, who in 1943 was deported to the most infamous concentration camp – Auschwitz-Birkenau. As a professional musician, she created and directed a camp orchestra that consisted only of female prisoners who, unlike Alma, weren’t sometimes trained professionals. Their concerts were attended by SS men, Kapos, and such personalities as for example Dr. Mengele himself.
I am very happy that I found out about Alma’s story. I’ve never heard of her before, even though I’ve always been quite interested in WW2 and Holocaust topics, so I am very grateful that there is now a fiction book about her. The author, Ellie Midwood, mentioned that she gathered information about Alma Rosé from other nonfiction books and historical sources, and since historical fiction is usually a more beloved genre than historical nonfiction, it’s a fantastic way for Alma’s story to be heard! Her life is truly a moving example of human decency, and her sacrifices for the girls from her orchestra and her love should definitely be widely spoken about.
Unfortunately, this is the only positive side of the book.
I think it’s Ellie Midwood’s writing that I couldn’t really connect with. As much as I liked Alma’s story, I think the execution wasn’t really good. The narrative was very fast, way too fast for such a story to be told well, and the story sounded quite plain and shallow at times. What is more, I think some events and the way characters responded to them were way too colourful and exaggerated. This is a very subjective opinion, but the book felt sometimes a bit “too happy” for me, and I couldn’t really imagine those awful, gruesome and harsh conditions of Auschwitz that everyone is so familiar with.
The introduction of characters and the characters’ development was also a big question for me. There were many characters in the book, and it confused me a lot. Most of them were also, and unfortunately, very poorly introduced, skipped over, only quickly mentioned or neglected at all, and it really bothered me. I guess that was due to the fast-paced narrative and the author simply didn’t have much time to introduce the characters properly. Even Alma herself seemed very superficial to me, as though her character lacked depth, more developed personality and thoughts. The only character that had actually some more characteristics was Dr. Mengele, who was indeed an important character, but not as important as Alma, her lover Mikóls Steinberg or at least any of the girls from the orchestra.
It was simply a very fast read and I wished it lasted longer. Some things could have been explored in more depth and a lot of things could have been avoided. I liked Alma’s story, the theme of music in Auschwitz conditions and a general image of the Music Block in the concentration camp, but I really wished this story had focused more on the characters and their stories rather than simple and superficial descriptions.
Any music was produced out of love, never out of hatred or cruelty. That’s why there was no new culture born out of Hitler’s new Germany.Ellie Midwood, The Violinist of Auschwitz
The Violinist of Auschwitz is definitely worth reading, simply because Alma Rosé’s story is beautiful and moving. I am glad I have read it, but I guess Ellie Midwood’s style is not for me. I am very curious to hear other people’s opinions about this book and I hope I haven’t totally discouraged you to read it! It may be a wonderful choice for some people, I guess it just wasn’t for me.
I have been given a copy of this book via NetGalley. My review is honest and unbiased and all opinions here are my own.