I am very interested in World War II-era stories, especially stores of those affected by the Holocaust. This book starts at the beginning of WW2 in Vienna. Elise and her family have a good life in Austria . Her father is a novelist, her mother is a musician. The problem is that they are Jewish. The family is trying to get everyone out of the country, but they are having problems getting visas. Elise is able to leave the country because she is being sponsored by an English family to come and work as a house servant. Being the youngest in the family, it’s hard for her to leave, but she does so with the understanding that her family will send for her when they get to America.
Elise has never truly worked. Everything has always been done for her, so when she arrives in England at Tyneford, she is in for a rude awakening. Housemaids work from before dawn to after dark. There is never a moment’s peace. And it’s even harder when you don’t speak very good English. Luckily, the squire (Mr. Rivers) is a kind man and has read Elise’s father’s books. Kit Rivers, the squire’s son, is not around much, but when he is, it brings life to the house.
Elise has to work through a number of things – learning English, being away from her family, seeking information on her family, as well as just adjusting to a different way of life. She is a source of suspicion from those who visit the house, a source of frustration to the head butler and housekeeper, and a curiosity of sorts for the villagers, Mr. Rivers, and Kit Rivers.
The novel follows Elise’s life throughout her time in England. I found it interesting to read about what her life was like as a Jew in England and how much faith it took to continue to exist while her family was in such dire straits. Her relationships with the Rivers men are interesting, if unsurprising. My heart ached for her – wanting to know what was going on with her family, trying to find her way in England, and yet dreading the information that could come at any time. But each day, she got up and continued on with her duties and responsibilities, knowing that she is trying to make her parents proud.
One thing I found a little distracting was the fact that Elise doesn’t refer to her parents as Mom and Dad, it’s Anna and Julian. Maybe that’s because they were such public persons and she didn’t relate to them as Mom and Dad. But it was something to get used to.
I really liked this book and would definitely recommend it.
I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.