by Julie Earhart-Cracchiolo
Present day Manhattan: Art dealer Sera James saw a beautiful painting as a young girl. She has made it her life’s work to find that painting, which has been missing for decades. The painting’s subject is that of a young female violinist with a shaved head and a number tattooed on her forearm. In my mind’s eye, I see a black-and-white painting with the girl’s eyes in color. Her assistant, Penny, gets a lead on the painting. It’s owned by a wealthy San Francisco family.
That’s one story in the complex novel.
1942-1945 Europe. First in Vienna. Adele is Vienna’s Sweetheart. At sixteen, the young woman is a violin prodigy. She plays the most beautiful music Austrians have ever heard. It doesn’t hurt that Adele is also a beautiful young woman. Her father is a high-ranking Nazi, and Adele is often called upon to play for the upper echelons of the Third Reich. She has fallen in love with one of her colleagues, Vladimir Nicolai, and has embraced his mission to help a Jewish family flee the city. Once it’s know that she’s been involved with Nicolai, she is arrested at her family’s home and sent to Auschwitz.
That’s the other main story line.
The Butterfly and the Violin is one of those stories that weaves back and forth, which I like. The thing that struck me the most is how Adele was forced to play a violin, not only to stay alive, but as the concentration camp inmates were marched in and out of the camp, some to work, some to die.
The story lacked an overall tension, and wrapped up much too quickly. I give The Butterfly and the Violin 4 out of 5 stars.