Exile Music

Jennifer Steil. Viking, $27 (432p) ISBN 978-0-525-56181-1
In Steil’s tale of a Jewish family’s exodus from pre-WWII-era Vienna (after The Ambassador’s Wife), a young girl is forced to leave her best friend and emigrate to Bolivia. Ten-year-old Orly Zingel’s life is threatened when her musician parents lose their jobs performing operas and symphonies in Vienna after the German occupation, and their months-long wait for visas and passage on an Italian ship overlaps with Hitler’s ominous January 1939 Reichstag speech. Nazi soldiers evict them from their apartment building, and Orly is separated from her best friend, Anneliese, whose family lives there. Though refugee organizations help the Zingels get acclimated once they arrive in in La Paz, Bolivia, they endure altitude sickness and a longing for the refinement and familiarity of Vienna. Orly’s youth enables her to embrace Bolivian culture, while her father gives music lessons and plays the viola with ensembles of fellow refugees. As Orly befriends Miguel, she thinks of Anneliese and wonders if the friendship they shared was the prelude for a deeper relationship between them. Steil expertly weaves historical details into this immersive narrative, complete with a focus on the impact of music in the characters’ lives. Steil’s evocative look at a lesser-explored corner of WWII is well worth picking up. Agent: Brettne Bloom, the Book Group. (May)
Reviewed on : 02/28/2020
Release date: 05/05/2020
Genre: Fiction
Book - 978-0-525-56182-8
Library Binding - 978-1-4328-8056-9
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-0-525-56183-5
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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