Welcome to our #TalkTuesday author interview series at Alternative-Read.com. Each week our resident interviewer, Elise Cooper, gets to discuss another great author’s work!
Today we feature The Girl From Berlin by Ronald H. Balson!
Have you read this book? Do let us know! Thank you!
Luv, Sass x
P.S. Today’s #TalkTuesday interview is also our #TeaserTuesday and First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, all of which feature The Girl From Berlin by Ronald H. Balson. A joint effort by Elise and I! Enjoy!
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The Girl From Berlin by Ronald H. Balson has readers experiencing the emotional roller coaster ride of guilt, anger, fear, and redemption. Chapters alternate between the 1930s/1940s and 2017. The connection between the time periods is a manuscript that Ada Baumgarten has written about her life under Nazi rule and the devastating effect it had on Jews, particularly Ada’s family.
Not only is this book a powerful historical novel but it also has a riveting mystery of murder, deception, and greed. The questions asked throughout the present-day chapters, how does the accounting of a young Jewish girl’s life in the 1930s and 1940s relate to a deed for an Italian farm, and what became of Ada?
It is almost like taking a time machine from present-day Italy back to the 1930’s during Hitler’s regime in Germany. The story opens with the recurring characters Catherine Lockhart and Liam Taggart being asked by an old friend to travel to Tuscany Italy to save the farm and priceless wine vineyards of his aunt, Gabi Vincenzo. A powerful corporation claims they own the deeds, even though she can produce her own set of deeds to her land.
Since Catherine is an attorney and her husband Liam is a private investigator they set forth to try to help the elderly woman. Upon their arrival in Tuscany, Gabi tells Catherine and Liam to read a memoir by a woman named Ada Baumgarten, a German violinist forced to flee Berlin and settle in Bologna Italy after the Nazis took power.
The author also transplants readers back to the Nazi era where Jews were unaware of the horrors awaiting them: first deprived of careers/businesses, then property, basic rights, and ultimately, for many of them, their lives. Even more disturbing is the knowledge that while this was happening, many of the non-Jewish German population either does nothing or actively assists. Within these devastating events the author allows readers a reprise with the classical musical scenes and the various descriptions of certain musical works.
This novel puts a personal touch on the Holocaust where the six million Jews who perished do not seem like numbers. Starting with the first pages of the book, readers will be so mesmerized there will be no turning back. Balson does a great job of intertwining the music, the rise of the Nazi party to power during its early years, its effect on Jewish lives, and the comparison between Jewish treatment in Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. It is a story of courage, survival, and hope.
Elise Cooper: The novel is really the story of two women?
Ron Balson: I got the idea for Gavi when visiting my son who was studying abroad in Italy. We drove around Italy and tried to visit as many wineries in Tuscany as we could because they are so quaint and beautiful. We found out that German corporations own some of them. I thought about the German occupation of Italy from 1943 to 1945 where they brutally seized Jewish property.
Ada came about from my long-time thoughts about Jewish artists and musicians during the Nazi regime. During the Weimar Republic, Germany’s government, from 1919 to 1933, the period after World War I until the rise of Nazi Germany, there was a cultural explosion of art and science.
EC: You depict how many Jews did not realize until it was too late what was really happening?
RB: I wanted to explore the Jewish options open to escape from the Nazi barbarism. Many did leave Germany and Austria before the war. Yet, many could not just pick up and go some place. Where would they go since the surrounding countries of Poland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia were not options? Anywhere someone went there were no job, no community, and no money. These are formidable barriers. They tried to convince themselves things were not so bad, especially since events happened in increments. First Jews had to wear armbands, then Jewish stores were painted, but the atrocities started later.
EC: What about the famous German conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler-friend or foe of the Jews?
RB: I think he had a bad deal at the end of the war. He was unfairly criticized because he stayed and continued to conduct the Berlin philharmonic. Many felt by doing this he gave prestige to Hitler’s Germany. He did denounce Hitler as an enemy of the people, defied Hitler’s order to rid the orchestra of all Jewish players, refused to do a Nazi salute, and did not play their anthem. He continued to play Jewish composers and invited Jewish soloists. I think he was a good man.
EC: What is the role of classical music?
RB: A big one. Some people have written to me and told me that while reading a scene in the book where Ada plays Mozart they put on their Apple music. My grandmother who was a concert pianist for the Detroit symphony influenced me. She passed on to me the love for classical music. In fact, just as with my character Ada, she soloed at a time where there were no women in the actual orchestra.
EC: What about the role of the Holocaust?
RB: This is not a concentration book except for the scenes where Ada was in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. It is based more on society and what was going on in Germany and Italy. I wanted to tell the story of what happened to Jewish artists, and to give readers an understanding of what the family had to go through with the brutality and emotional abuse.
EC: It is concerning how the German population did nothing regarding the Jewish mistreatment?
RB: I wrote this book quote by Ada, “Perhaps the most hurtful and inimical result of the campaign was the pervasive acceptance of Nazi policies by German society…it became apparent that they would no longer stand up for us. Those who uttered hateful speech were sinful, but the greater sin was committed by those who did not speak at all.” The Nazi policies were accepted. Remember Germany had seen a serious depression. With the Nazis, there started to be a booming economy. Since this population was not Jewish they turned the other way. A good lesson to take out of this book is that we as a society should not turn our backs to those in need. We need to be on guard for repressive societies.
EC: How would you describe Ada?
RB: Strong, determined, well principled, lives for her art, and is loyal to her conductors and family.
EC: How would you describe Gabi?
RB: Feisty. She had a difficult life as a child. I wanted to show through her what happened to a lot of survivors, how they shut out what happened to them. She found it difficult to discuss what she went through. They never brought it up to their families. Survivors have come up to me to discuss what happened to them and they tell me they never talked about it to their families. I feel honored they would talk to me, a perfect stranger.
EC: Can you give a heads up about your next book?
RB: It will take place over three time periods with the Lublin ghetto, the DP camps, and in 1965. This man is on a quest. It will probably come out late in 2019.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
In the newest novel from internationally-bestselling author Ronald. H. Balson, Liam and Catherine come to the aid of an old friend and are drawn into a property dispute in Tuscany that unearths long-buried secrets
An old friend calls Catherine Lockhart and Liam Taggart to his famous Italian restaurant to enlist their help. His aunt is being evicted from her home in the Tuscan hills by a powerful corporation claiming they own the deeds, even though she can produce her own set of deeds to her land. Catherine and Liam’s only clue is a bound handwritten manuscript, entirely in German, and hidden in its pages is a story long-forgotten…
Ada Baumgarten was born in Berlin in 1918, at the end of the war. The daughter of an accomplished first-chair violinist in the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic, and herself a violin prodigy, Ada’s life was full of the rich culture of Berlin’s interwar society. She formed a deep attachment to her childhood friend Kurt, but they were torn apart by the growing unrest as her Jewish family came under suspicion.
As the tides of history turned, it was her extraordinary talent that would carry her through an unraveling society turned to war, and make her a target even as it saved her, allowing her to move to Bologna—though Italy was not the haven her family had hoped, and further heartache awaited.
What became of Ada? How is she connected to the conflicting land deeds of a small Italian villa? As they dig through the layers of lies, corruption, and human evil, Catherine and Liam uncover an unfinished story of heart, redemption, and hope—the ending of which is yet to be written.
Don’t miss Liam and Catherine’s lastest adventures in The Girl from Berlin!
First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros
I’m also taking part in First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros
Every Tuesday Vicki @ I’d Rather Be at the Beach now hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where readers share the first paragraph of a book that they are reading or plan to read soon.
The Girl From Berlin by Ronald H. Balson
Looking forward to visiting your blogs and seeing what your Teaser Tuesday and First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, are this week!
Luv Sassy x
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