A Sparrow in Terezin is the sequel to The Butterfly and the Violin, and the two books do need to be read in order. Both books are written in two separate timelines, with the contemporary story in both books following the story of art gallery owner Sera James and business mogul William Hanover. As with the first book, the historical section of the novel followed the story of a woman in World War Two Europe, following her from Prague to London and back to Europe over the course of three years.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Butterfly and the Violin. Some readers didn’t like the way it skipped between two timelines or didn’t like the Sera/William subplot, but it was original and I thought it worked. I’d been looking forward to the sequel, so started reading it as soon as the review copy was available (it wasn’t like I had anything better to do on Christmas Eve when I was hosting the family for Christmas Day …. Yes, I'm aware that's five months ago. It just shows how keen I was to read this).
But while A Sparrow in Terezin is a good novel, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I expected, as I didn’t think the two timelines worked as well. I found the present-day timeline frustrating, as it didn’t seem to be moving the story forward and the link between present and past seemed contrived (I can only assume the minor character linking the stories will actually turn out to be a major character in a later book).
It didn’t help that the past plot took a long time to get to the point—it’s not until two-thirds of the way through the book that Kaja arrives in Terezin, by which time I’d been so involved in her London story that I’d forgotten the implications of the title. The sequence of events which lands her in Terezin, a ghetto/concentration camp, seems unlikely and her motivation for taking those steps is noble, I didn't think it fitted with her character as it had been shown.
The writing and research were excellent, although the Christian aspects were too oblique for my taste. I thoroughly enjoyed Kaja’s story for the first two-thirds of the book, but I found the last third seemed disconnected, and I didn’t get into Sera and William’s story at all. The result was a novel that didn’t meet my expectations, and left me feeling “meh” in the end.
Thanks to NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.