Rachel’s Legacy did something very rare, it turned out to be better than the first book in the series, The Keeper of Secrets. No mean feat, as I thought the first book was excellent.
We pick up on the previous story of the Horowitz family, German Jews who suffered terribly at the hands of the Nazi regime. In the first novel we followed the history of a priceless violin which was taken from them by the Nazis, looted by the Russians, and eventually returned to the hands of a Horowitz, in the form of a brilliant young violin prodigy growing up in America.
Rachel’s Legacy concerns another looted treasure, this time a priceless painting by the German artist Albrecht Dürer. But Rachel’s real legacy was a daughter, Elizabeth, whom she gave up as a baby in 1942 to protect her from the Nazis. Raised by a family of Christian farmers, her adopted parents removed her from Germany soon after the war and went to live in Australia. Elizabeth brought up her own three children with little reference to Germany and it is only when her son Kobi has some old letters translated from Hebrew that the true story begins to gradually emerge.
The story of human relationships is beautifully and movingly crafted. When Elizabeth meets with what is left of a family she never knew she had, so many conflicting emotions are raised and beautifully handled by Julie Thomas.
Thomas’ style is all about the flowing narrative and the plot. There is so much happening all the way through the book that the reader’s attention is always busy. She is not about description, and I realised as I finished the book that I really had no idea what the Dürer portrait looked like. I know that every hair on the man’s head is painted with tiny brush strokes but I have absolutely no idea of the colours or the detail. That is Thomas’s style, it is all about the story and the plot and just enough detail for the reader to form the pictures in their mind. Her characters are excellent, believable and realistic and that is all she needs to craft a brilliantly enjoyable novel.
From a writer’s perspective I find the story of Julie Thomas’ first novel fascinating. She gave up her media job and sold up her house in Auckland before, in September 2011, putting her first novel onto Amazon and Smashwords. It went on to sell 50,000 copies and so was picked up by HarperCollins who published it in 2013. This is now her third novel and there is one more volume to come in the Horowitz story. Personally I can’t wait for that one next year.