In the winter of 1991, at a concert in Krakow, an older woman with a marvellously pitched violin meets a fellow musician who is instantly captivated by her instrument.
When he asks her how she obtained it, she reveals the remarkable story behind its origin…
Imprisoned at Auschwitz, the notorious concentration camp, Daniel feels his humanity slipping away. Treasured memories of the young woman he loved and the prayers that once lingered on his lips become hazier with each passing day.
Then a visit from a mysterious stranger changes everything, as Daniel’s former identity as a crafter of fine violins is revealed to all.
The camp’s two most dangerous men use this information to make a cruel wager: If Daniel can build a successful violin within a certain number of days, the Kommandant wins a case of the finest burgundy. If not, the camp doctor, a torturer, gets hold of Daniel. And so, battling exhaustion, Daniel tries to recapture his lost art, knowing all too well the likely cost of failure.
Let’s be honest I picked this one up initially for its gorgeous cover 😉 But its tale of a luthier in the midst of one of the worst places to have ever existed on earth, sounded like a moving touching read.
The story is framed either side in the modern-day with a concert where the violin is played, but it’s the story of its origin that is at its heart.
The author obviously wanted to juxtapose the creation of something so beautiful with the horrors of the place it was created, and for the most part succeeds, but for me there was something about the story that left me slightly detached. I’m not sure if that’s this book though, or the fact we’ve read so much about the horrors of the concentration camps that I’ve been desensitized to the horrors, that it takes more than gentle manipulation at work here.
But, for all that. It is well written and you can feel Daniel’s despair at what his life has been reduced to, mixed with pleasure of doing what he was born to do, and the temporary lift out of the horrors around him, it provides.
Not as moving as it sets out to be, but still a touching little tale.