The Butterfly and the Violin takes place in two timelines: the present, in which Manhattan art gallery owner Sera James is searching for the original of an enigmatic painting she saw when she was just eight years old. Her search leads her to William Hanover, the almost–heir to a $100m estate, who has a copy of the painting and is also searching form the original. The past is the story of Adele Von Bron, the beautiful Aryan daughter of a high-ranking member of the Third Reich and solo violinist with the Vienna Philharmonic.
I’ve read novels with two timelines before, and there is often the temptation to skip one of the stories in favour of the stronger one. There was no such temptation with The Butterfly and the Violin, as both stories were equally compelling. It’s soon obvious that the painting is of Adele, and that the past story is going to solve the mystery of the present, and the present story is going to reveal the secrets of the past.
Adele’s story was made even more compelling by the fact that it didn’t move strictly forward in time. First we were in 1942, then 1939 … it jumped around (which did mean I had to pay close attention to the dates at the beginning of the Adele chapters). Hers was a story of love, sacrifice, and hardship almost beyond enduring. The present story of Sera and William might have seemed weak in comparison, except that it was so closely linked with the past story, and it worked.
There were a couple of writing glitches (although I was reading an advance ecopy, so these might not be in the final book), but it’s a testament to the strength of the characters and the dual plot that I barely noticed them. A huge amount of research has gone into writing The Butterfly and the Violin, and while the level of detail (often unpleasant) made this obvious, it was never overwhelming, it was always relevant, and nothing felt out of place (which I sometimes find in historical novels. Some authors try too hard to incorporate everything, to the detriment of the story).
Basically, I thought this was one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I’ll be on the lookout for more books by Kristy Cambron. Recommended, especially for those who enjoyed Saving Amiele by Cathy Gohlke or other good World War novels.
Thanks to NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.