A priceless 1742 Guarneri del Gesu violin becomes a focal point from which radiates the story of a German family devastated by the Holocaust, a Russian family hiding secrets and a community of musicians.
Thomas’ (In Vino Veritas, 2012, etc.) novel sweepingly embraces generations of the Horowitz family. In 1939, Simon Horowitz follows in the footsteps of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather—all virtuoso violinists. Hoping to hide at least the most precious of the family heirlooms from the Nazis, Simon’s father has the instrument—which has been in the family for over 150 years—subtly altered. Leaping ahead in time, the story picks up with Daniel Horowitz, whose talent at the age of 14 has already earned him the prestigious Hillier Foundation International Prize, as well as the kind attention of maestro conductor Rafael Gomez. Although the family did not lose its talent, it did lose the del Gesu during the war, which also sent Simon, his brother and his father to Dachau. Despite his gift—and to his parents’ horror—Daniel would rather play baseball with his friends. While Rafael plots to keep Daniel playing the violin, another musician, Tatiana, captures the musical world’s attention, not for her skill (which is certainly remarkable), but for her instrument. Rescued from prostitution, Tatiana is under the protection of Sergei Valentino, who allows her to play his family’s 1729 del Gesu. Hearing her play in public, however, restorer Roberto di Longi becomes convinced that in her hands lies something far more valuable. Soon, Daniel’s fortunes and the mystery of the del Gesu violins begin to converge, forcing Rafael to weigh friendship against justice.
From unexpected mercies to unbridled greed, Thomas’ tale is grand in scope, rich with musicality, yet the pressures of the musical coterie deflate when set against the horrors of the concentration camps.