Friday, February 3, 2012

The Novel in the Viola

The Novel in the Viola, Natasha Solomons

A trip to my mum’s over the holidays provided much of the fiction I am reviewing at the moment, and I’m glad it did, because otherwise I would probably not have bothered to pick up another novel by Natasha Solomons. Mr Rosenblum’s List was a nice book, but I didn’t love it. Her second novel, The Novel in the Viola, I really enjoyed.

Returning to a similar theme of Mr Rosenblum, that of European Jews fleeing to England in the 1930s, this time it is the story of Elise Landau. From a wealthy Viennese family, she is forced to become a parlour maid in an English country house, Tyneford, in order to secure a visa and escape Austria. However, war is looming, times & traditions are changing, and the ordered life of Tyneford is starting to buckle. While normally any interaction between the family and staff is forbidden, Elise and Kit, the heir to the manor, realise that love does not care for class distinctions. This is the novel I read after The Help, which left me pondering the many people who have ‘served’ the wealthy: the black Americans, the poorer English, etc. Our society contains many class distinctions.

This is a gentle novel. It is sad in many ways, and talks about times of real grief and suffering, yet it eases us into them. I enjoyed the insight into English life in the 1930s and wartime, and Solomons’ writing style is lovely - evocative and gentle.   Perfect for the time in which the novel is set.

If you enjoyed Mr Solomon’s List, you will really like this one.

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