Maria Àngels Anglada brings the history of the violin made by Daniel, the Jewish luthier, during his internment in the Auschwitz concentration camp, to vibrant life.
The story opens with the playing of the violin by Regina in the present time. Her relationship to the craftsman becomes apparent about half way through the book, but is not fully revealed until nearr the end.
The brutality of the Nazis in the WWII camps is vividly described in such a way that the reader can feel the day-to-day tension. The prisoners live on a knife-edge between survival and horrific punishment, or even death. Their fortune always hangs on the balance and depends on the moods of their captors as much as on their own actions. Should one stand to attention and salute when a German officer enters the room, or continue with one's work until spoken to? The answer to that question varies, as do the consequences of the answer. Every day is filled with gambles of life for every prisoner.
Amidst all of the stress and anxiety, Daniel is awarded the opportunity to create a perfect musical instrument for the Camp Commandant. His chance comes when he observes a fellow prisoner, a violinst called Bronislaw, being berated by the Commandant for playing bad notes. Daniel can hear the fault in Bronislaw's violin, and knows exactly what it is. Risking his life, he steps forward to point out a split in the shoulder of the instrument. He is allowed to make the necessary repair, demonstrating his expertise.
Suitably impressed, the commandant orders Daniel to make the perfect violin and allows him to choose his tools and materials.
Daniel knows that failure could put his life on the line.
The translation from Catalan to English by Martha Tennent must be good, as the strength of feeling, which must have been in the original, comes shining through.
There is some tiny thing, which I can't quite identify, which is lacking in this book, for me, but it is well worth four to four-and-a-half stars. I would thoroughly recommend it to any of my friends.