Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: January 1, 2015

A Mysterious painting breathes hope and beauty into the darkest corners of Auschwitz--and the loneliest hearts of Manhattan. Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl--a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes. In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with William Hanover--the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul--who may be the key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece. Together Sera and William slowly unravel the story behind the painting's subject: Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron. A darling of the Austrian aristocracy of 1942, talented violinist, and daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks everything when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna. In a heartbeat, her life of prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and barbed wire. As Sera untangles the secrets behind the painting, she finds beauty in the most unlikely of places: the grim camps of Auschwitz and the inner recesses of her own troubled heart.

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Kristy Cambron's The Butterfly and the Violin sat on my kindle far longer than it should have. I received a review copy before it ever went to print, but my attention only turned its way when Cambron released a sequel. I'm not a fan of starting in the middle so, naturally, I felt I had no choice and promptly bumped book one of the Hidden Masterpiece series to the top of my TBR. 

I cracked it open and to be perfectly honest, I fell in love with it. There was a lot of intrigue in the contemporary mystery surrounding the painting and I liked the inherent conflict of the 1942 premise. I didn't think much of William, Sera or Adele, but I quickly grew to appreciate supporting cast members like Vladimir, Penny and Omara. The pacing was great, I loved the amount of authentic detail offered in the Auschwitz scenes, and I thought the back and forth movement between the two storylines very well-done. I still think that, but none of it makes up for the elements I didn't appreciate.

The early chapters of the novel incorporated light religious references that complimented the situational drama of the narrative, but Cambron mounts a soapbox in the tail end of the story and infuses her novel with so much faith that the fictional elements of the novel fade into obscurity. Some readers of Christian fiction like this treatment and I can respect that, but I am not one of them. I have no problem with religion, if I did I wouldn't have picked up the book, but Cambron got so caught up in her message that she lost sight of the story she'd created and that is something I can't ignore. 

Bottom line, I felt The Butterfly and the Violin started strong, but it lost its way and never recovered. The story had tons of potential, but lacks balance between its fictional elements and faith-based themes and at the end of the day, I admit it is a piece I'd have great difficulty recommending alongside the American Family Portrait series by Cavanaugh or the Zion Covenant books by Thoene.

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"Now I understand the depth of the sadness.” William turned and looked at her. “In the painting? Adele’s eyes look as though they go deeper than the back of the canvas. It’s because of what she saw, because of all the people who walked by her and she was powerless to stop it.” 
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