While I rarely write about fiction, I do read a fair amount of the genre. Today I am sharing a review of a unique novel by blogger Anneli Purchase.
The engrossing story Julia’s Violinist, by Anneli Purchase, shows destruction by war through the eyes of one woman and her family. Julia is a Sudeten German, living with three million other ethnic Germans in what is now the Czech Republic. When Hitler’s Germany is defeated, suddenly Julia’s people are vulnerable. At the start of the story, Julia is a young widow with two daughters. Because she is a German woman amongst the Czechs, she is immediately thrust into danger. The Czech military wants to rid the country of the Germans, so they herd them into barracks where they are starved and many women raped. Julia manages to stay with her daughters, her parents, and one sister in the holding facility. She stays strong for the sake of the others, especially her daughters. Eventually Julia and her family move to Germany and from there to Canada.
Before I read this novel, I did not know about Sudetenland or Sudeten Germans, so I knew nothing of their plight when, first they were taken over by the Czechs after WWI, and then their country became Czechoslovakia after WWII. I had assumed that what is now the Czech Republic was always peopled by mainly Czechs. In a similar vein, until more recent years, although my maternal grandmother’s people emigrated from Prussia, I did not realize that Prussia was in what is now Poland or that all the ethnic Germans in Prussia were made to leave their homes after WWII. Their experience was similar to that of the Sudeten Germans. I have discovered that my accountant was a Sudeten German toddler when his family was made to live in refugee camps, just as Julia lived in the barracks, with little food. He told me that he did not have enough to eat at that age and that it affected his health.
Julia’s Violinist threads a love story throughout the historical tale. Although the story is not chronological, it is told in clearly-identified sections, so it is very easy to understand. This structure places the reader immediately in the dangerous world of post WWII, but then goes back in time to before the war, a time when Julia was just maturing and falling in love with Michael, a violinist, who also loves her. But his father dies as they are to begin courting, and Michael has to take over the family bakery. He has no time for dating. Julia’s life goes off in another direction when she marries and has children. But Michael will come back into her life. Read the book to find out what happens with the star-crossed lovers and to follow the twists and turns in the lives of Julia and her children.
Characters are so well-drawn. Julia is a very likable woman. She’s heroic, but also very human. Some of her decisions can be second-guessed, but considering her circumstances, they are understandable. I particularly admire the development of the complex and less-than-heroic character of Karl. I found myself trying to analyze him as if he were someone I knew in real life. When I finished reading the story, I felt as if I had to leave behind a hometown or community.
Although this is a minor point, the editing of Julia’s Violinist is impeccable, making it a special pleasure to read. Since Anneli Purchase is a professional editor, this makes sense. I am often sidetracked when reading by typos that I can spot at thirty paces, but this book is a smooth read. My deep involvement with the characters and their stories wasn’t broken by distractions.
Whenever I read a book from the perspective of someone from an overlooked group, I learn so much–and this novel is no exception. I feel privileged to have “met” Julia and her family.
GREAT NEWS. Anneli Purchase is offering a 99 cent sale on Julia’s Violinist and all her other books until the end of December.
I asked Anneli if she would please talk a bit about Julia’s Violinist. What she told me seems to explain why this book feels so important and so close to the heart of the writer.
When I was growing up, I often helped my mother in the kitchen. As we cooked and baked, my mother talked about “the old days” and I asked her many questions. She told me how the southeast part of Germany she lived in (Sudetenland) suddenly came under Czech rule with the stroke of a pen at the end of WWI. Three million Germans were to be ruled by a Czech government. When WWII came along, these people had hoped to shed the yoke of the oppressors, but as we all know, for better or worse, Germany lost the war.
As a child, I thought that this amazing story was one that happened only to my mother, that she and her family were the only ones who were driven out of their homes. But as I grew up and learned more about history, I realized that this was far more widespread than I had imagined. After the war, with the blessing of the Allies, the victors, especially the Czechs and Russians who had scores to settle, swarmed through Sudetenland, killing and raping thousands, and driving them out of their land.
Before, during, and after these atrocities were committed, the story of Julia takes shape. She is one person, but various versions of her story happened to hundreds of thousands at that time, and therefore, it needed to be told.
The story is fictional, but it is based on a lot of research, and while the personal story of Julia cannot be verified, I have tried to stay true to the historical facts as they happened then, hopefully without prejudice.
Anneli Purchase has lived and taught in various parts of British Columbia, including the Queen Charlotte Islands and Vancouver Island where she works as an author and a freelance copy-editor. Her articles on coastal life have appeared in Canadian and UK magazines. She has published five novels (The Wind Weeps and its sequel Reckoning Tide, Orion’s Gift, Julia’s Violinist, and Marlie).
To find out more about Anneli’s novels, you can visit her website:
Anneli’s books will be on sale for 99 cents until the end of December. You can purchase Julia’s Violinist at amazon.com
If you don’t have a Kindle, you can go to smashwords.com for all types of e-reader formats.
All the happiest or most peaceful or satisfying holidays to you!!!
50 responses to “My Review of Julia’s Violinist by Anneli Purchase and Note from the Author”
I’m thankful this story has been saved, and in such a compelling way.
I know. I’m grateful to Anneli for writing the book.
This story involves events new to me. Sounds like a good read.
It’s an excellent read and the bonus is learning something new :).
I didn’t know about this area. People are not kind. Constant conflict and conquering and to what end?
I know. It’s appalling what people do when they are given the least ability to do what they want.
I do understand why the Sudeten and Prussian Germans were overlooked as Americans, Canadians, and Europeans (and others) had just “won” a war against the Germans and Japanese (and others) and we were finding out the extent of the Holocaust and trying to put their own lives and communities back in order. But it’s disturbing that this ignorance continued into the decades afterward and was never mentioned in a single history class I ever took (and that includes college since I was a history major).
This comment of yours hit home to me, Luanne [But it’s disturbing that this ignorance continued into the decades afterward and was never mentioned in a single history class I ever took (and that includes college since I was a history major)].
I found the same thing to be true as I was going through school. These events were not mentioned in our history books in Canada. Maybe they are now, decades later, but I still find that most people don’t even know that this went on. I find it ironic that this “expulsion of a people” was done AFTER the war, with the blessing of the Allies. Maybe that’s why they don’t want to mention it. Maybe they now have the decency to be ashamed of that decision.
Somehow I doubt it will show up in any history books!
The book sounds really interesting, and I will add it to my Kindle. I knew about ethnic Germans being thrown out of Prussia/Polen after WWII but not about Sudetenland. Do you follow Peter Klopp’s blog? His family lived in Polen before World War II and were among those who had to flee after the war. It’s a great blog. https://klopp-family.com/
I will check out the blog. Terrible that our history education is so limited. Thanks, Amy.
I really enjoyed this book. In fact, all of Anneli’s books are fantastic. Thanks for sharing, Luanne.
Yay!!! You’re welcome hah :).
You gave a wonderful review of this book, Luanne. I will consider very carefully if it’s one I can read. You make it feel very positive in a dark time. Thank you.
Thanks, Marlene. I hope you can read it. Hope your Christmas was wonderful!
This sounds interesting, Luanne. Thanks for sharing. I did know this about Sudetenland, as well as other areas where this kind of thing happened.
I don’t think the editing is a minor point at all. 😀
Editing seems to be a minor point for too many writers, but then it might be that I am in a minority to be annoyed by lots of typos.
Well, then I’m there with you. 😀
This sounds like an excellent novel about a story that needs to be told and preserved.
Thank you, Liz!
It really is. I think you would love it, Liz.
I’ve put it on my reading list. 🙂
Thanks for sharing this review. “Julia’s Violinist” is not just a novel — it’s history.
Well put. Yes, it’s history.
Thank you so much for that kind review, Luanne. I’m not a person who likes to blow her own horn, so I really appreciate your thorough review of Julia’s Violinist, and your help in advertising it. It’s interesting that you found the character of Karl a good study. One of my readers told me that after reading the book she was in a restaurant with her husband and said to him, “OMG! Look over there. That’s got to be Karl!” I guess he had made an impression on her.
Anyway, my thanks to you, Luanne, and all your followers for their kind comments. I hope you do have a chance to grab this book while I have it on sale. I’m considering continuing the sale for a few extra days into the new year.
This anecdote from another reader cracks me up. I hope you get from sales/new readers from the review!
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a great review, Luanne. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks, John! Happy day after Christmas 🎅.
Thank you. 😁
Such a wonderful review, Luanne. Thank you. It sounds like an interesting book.
It’s so good, Jennifer!
What a wonderful book. I heartily agree with your review–5/5 from me, too!
Thanks a lot for the vote of confidence, Jacqui.
What a wonderful review, Luanne. There’s so much of history that are overlooked or swept under the rug. Stories like Anneli’s–whether factual or fictionalized–need to be shared far and wide.
Thank you, Marie.
It really didn’t matter whether this story was fiction or nonfiction because you sense it’s very well researched historical fiction. Stories are what really share the past.
Lynette tried to leave a comment but she said it wouldn’t “go.” Can you think of any reason it wouldn’t show up? Maybe she needs to sign in with her email the first time?
Here it is: Hi Anneli, I tried to leave a comment on Luanne’s site but it somehow wouldn’t post.
A lovely review. I’ve read about the Sudetenland, so I’m familiar with that brutal and tragic history.
I love the photo of you and Emma. 💛
Ugh, I have no idea, unfortunately. I haven’t had a complaint like that in quite some time. There are certain blogs that give me particular trouble when I’m on my ipad. Joy Neal Kidney’s and Sheila’s I will call it, for instance. It must be the way some blogs are set up. But I don’t know as mine is a regular .com account. 🙁
Anyway, I’ve passed on her comment so it’s on there now. I don’t understand how these things work either. Every long once in a while it happens to me too.
Thoroughly enticing review, Luanne, and such a unique story. Sounds more historical than some histories!
Thanks so much for the review – and congratulations to the author for telling her truth with love and compassion.
Sheila, I hope you and T had a great Christmas and hopefully with Ella James. This book is one that really teaches history “with a spoonful of sugar” that is missing in most textbooks.
Covid was the great “separator” in our family this holiday season. We experienced what many families around the country experienced last year, and Ella James broke our hearts when we talked to her on the phone and she asked us when we were coming over to see her…very rough week. We’re hoping for the best for everyone.
Oh, i’m so sorry. That’s very hard. She can’t possibly understand. I’m sick of this stupid pandemic already!
Thank you, Sheila.
And thank you, Luanne for the comment about the spoonful of sugar missing in most textbooks. History should not be boring. It’s the setting and background for all the stories of our lives.
Yes yes yes!
Luanne, your review of Anneli’s novel Julia’s Violinist brought back memories of the book I read what seems like ages ago. In fact, I went back to the review which I wrote in 2015 and here are a few lines from the review:
“Through Julia, Purchase illustrates that love is complicated, layered and fragile. She gives us a protagonist who is both strong and resilient at having to start over and over.
This is a deeply layered novel with many secondary characters that add depth to the story. It is a story of courage, survival and love.”
Anneli, the photo of you and Emma as a puppy is very sweet.
Oh, I love this! So well put, Carol! Thank you for sharing that quote here.
I love that photo, too!