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Levi’s War by Julie Thomas

Julie Thomas concludes the trilogy of novels about the Horowitz family and their journey from the 1930s to the present day.


Starting with the hugely successful first book 'The Keeper of Secrets', we now conclude the series of revelations with the truth about how Levi Horowitz spent the Second World War. Having seen glimpses of how the various members of the very musical Horowitz family were separated from each other, and from their precious collection of musical instruments, by the Nazi regime, we now follow a quite remarkable tale of wartime resistance.


Just before the war, Levi escaped an increasingly anti-Semitic Germany and made his way to England, where his father had helped set up a career in banking for him. But as a German citizen in England he was soon imprisoned in a camp. From there he was taken and trained as a spy and then sent back into Germany, where his remarkable skills as a pianist brought him to the attention of senior figures in the Nazi regime and eventually put him in front of Hitler himself. Levi played the piano, learned how to play Wagner for the Fuhrer, and found himself able to spy on these powerful figures. We watch the trauma of Jewish man forced to toe a painful anti-Semitic line in order to stay alive. Eventually he had to leave Berlin and escape to Italy, where he joined the local resistance movement and fought with the partisans. He will make friends and lose others along this painful journey. He will also learn much about himself.


Thomas describes the task of writing evil characters such Hitler, Goebbels and Himmler as an exhausting one. The reader will often know something of them, have their own mental pictures or pre-conceptions. Even so, this story remains credible throughout, although covering such a long time period only leaves room for a broad brush picture. While enjoyable, for me this new book lacked much of the raw emotion that I enjoyed in the previous volume, 'Rachel's Legacy'.


The earlier novels had first a musical instrument and then a lost painting as a central theme which linked past and present. In ‘The Keeper of Secrets’ we watched a priceless violin pass from the Horowitz family to the Nazis, then to the Russians before eventually coming back into the hands of a Horowitz descendent to be played once more. There was a strong link to the present time. In Levi’s War our only link is Levi himself. While we are eavesdropping on Levi’s descendents as they watch camera footage of him telling his tale in the present time, this is somehow less engaging than seeing a precious violin or painting restored to former owners.


Reviewer: Marcus Hobson

Harper Collins, RRP $35

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