The War Pianist
by Mandy Robotham
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Pub Date 01 Aug 2023 | Archive Date 22 Aug 2023
Harper 360, Avon
Two cities. Two spies. Which woman survives?
Pianist: NOUN. Informal. A person who operates or controls a radio transmitter – often in code.
Blitz-ridden London: Marnie Fern’s life is torn apart when her grandfather is killed in an air raid. But once she discovers that he’d been working undercover as a radio operative – or pianist – for the Dutch resistance, Marnie knows she must complete his mission – no matter the cost…
Nazi-occupied Amsterdam: At the other end of the wireless, fellow pianist Corrie Bakker is caught in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse as she desperately tries to keep her loved ones out of the line of fire – even if it means sacrificing herself…
Bound together by the invisible wires of their radios, the two women lead parallel lives in their home cities, as both are betrayed by those they trust the most. But when the Nazis close in on one of them, only the other can save her…
The next gripping and heartbreaking WWII historical fiction novel from international bestseller, Mandy Robotham.
Real readers love The War Pianist:
‘A story packed with everything historical fiction readers need: espionage and betrayal to plights and flights…I learnt so much!…Brilliantly paced with twists and turns, courage and bravery and a touch of romance.’ Real Reader Review, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘Rich in detail and almost impossible to put down…I loved it.’ Real Reader Review, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘A front row seat to the survival of the Blitz in London as well as the Dutch resistance work. Fascinating…riveting.’ Real Reader Review, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘A book that captures your attention from the first page to the last. Mandy Robotham is a master storyteller…the tension mounts on every page and I could not put it down. Highly recommended.’ Real Reader Review, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘My favourite of Mandy’s books so far. I loved Marnie, Willem and Corrie and the relationship among the three of them. The strength and resolve of these characters is so inspiring and captivating…A perfectly composed novel for lovers of historical fiction…Every bit of this novel comes alive. Bravo!’ Real Reader Review, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘A gripping and heartbreaking WWII novel…If you love historical fiction, then this is a must-read.’ Real Reader Review, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘Mandy Robotham has done it again! A thoroughly well researched and interesting narrative set during WWII…Another five star read for me.’ Real Reader Review, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 17 members
Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, it was fast paced, had many twists with engaging characters. I appreciate the research that went into this book, learning what a “ pianist “ was during the war and the chances that they took in sending their coded messages. I really enjoyed the character development of Marnie throughout this story, getting involved with the coding, taking all the risks that she did when she didn’t have to, it shows the strength and determination of people during the war. I also enjoyed Willem and Corrie, their love, determination, and their courage. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction , especially from the World War II era. Every book that I have read from his era, I have gained more knowledge and appreciation of what people from this era had to endure.
The War Pianist had me on the edge of my seat. As the characters' connections grew you could feel the intensity of Marnie wanting to help and be a pivotal part of the effort to help and win the war in her own little corner. You can tell her character needed more and the connections she made helped her grow into the woman she was meant to be. I always enjoy reading about the not as well-known resistance in Amsterdam. The focus is usually in France in regards to resistance efforts but seeing how the people in Amsterdam in their quiet and controlled way saved many Jews and were able to thwart the Nazi's plans to take over the country. This is a great read and I highly recommend it to all.
Sitting comfortably on the sofa in my living room, with my laptop teetering on my lap and my Aussiedoodle snuggled closely against my leg, I contemplate the stark contrast of the life I live compared to that of the characters in Mandy Robotham’s latest novel <i>The War Pianist.</i>
If, like me, you have ever wondered to yourself what it must have been like living in Europe during WWII or how you might behave under similar circumstances, then you will enjoy <i>The War Pianist.</i>
<i>The War Pianist</i> is a thought-provoking, dual perspective account of the lives of two women living through the escalating aggression and occupation of German forces during WWII. Marnie Fern is a young Londoner working as a production assistant at the BBC. She tries to maintain a normal life as the German Luftwaffe perform nightly bombing raids on the city. Corrie Bakker is a mother who operates a small family bookshop in Nazi occupied Amsterdam. She and her children fight against occupation as members of the Dutch resistance.
When a bomb destroys ‘Cooper’s Bespoke Tailoring’ in London and takes the life of Marnie’s grandfather Gilbert Cooper, she discovers he led a secret life in the wreckage of the shop that will connect her to Corrie for the rest of her life.
The prologue plunges the reader directly into action, setting a quick pace for the story. Corrie is introduced along with her son, Willem, his best friend, Gus, her daughter, Kees, and her uncle, Hendrik who is being hidden in the attic for reasons yet unknown.
Switching gears, first chapter opens two months later with the Marnie lunching on meager rations in the cafeteria at work. Not exactly the heart-pounding excitement of the prologue. But the portrayal of characters carrying on with small acts of everyday living against the backdrop of war can be viewed as an act of resistance, signaling the overarching plot of the book. In writing about the small, often mundane, details of life, Robotham creates characters that are relatable and easy to cheer for when the tension rises, and the odds are against them.
Tensions rise quickly when Marnie’s grandfather is killed in chapter two and his secret is discovered. Her life is instantly changed as she is drawn in to take over the work of her grandfather as a radio operator, or pianist, for the Dutch resistance. Each chapter that follows, primarily alternating point of view between Marnie or Corrie, creates a new challenge to overcome that drives the story forward and kept me engaged.
This was the first novel by Mandy Robotham that I have read, and I can honestly report it will not be my last. While there is no shortage of WWII historical fiction, I felt this novel fit well into the genre while simultaneously standing out for the interesting subject matter of the “pianist.” I found myself considering how ordinary citizens, just trying to survive the war and maintain some type of normalcy, had such courage to fight against the terror they were facing and if I might have responded in the same manner. I feel I reached the same conclusion as the author who stated in her author’s note, “…war robs everyone of options. The only choice is to survive.”
If you like historical fiction filled with heart-pounding action, espionage, betrayal, and a touch of romance, then you will want to read The War Pianist.
Thank you to NetGalley and HarpersCollins Publishers for providing a gratis copy of this novel for me to review.
<b>Please do not read this portion of my review if you do not want to know the ending to the novel.</b>
I did not want to have to include a spoiler in my review, but the one thing that bothered me after reading the synopsis that states, “Two cities. Two spies. But which woman survives?” is that both women survived. I fully expected Corrie or Marnie to parish in dramatic fashion and I was going to be upset because I liked both of those characters. I tend to favor novels with strong female characters that get things done. When they both survived it was one part relief and one part “what?”
I like this book. It absorbed my attention and I wasn’t tempted to look ahead to the ending.
Marnie is a production assistant at the BBC when her granddad is killed in the Blitz. She discovers he’s led a secret life, tapping out radio codes to the Dutch underground. His London contact recruits Marnie to take his place and her life changes. She’d been bored with her life. Now she has purpose.
The biggest unknown in the war was who could be trusted. Marnie instinctively trusts Willem, her contact. When he disappears and is believed to have returned to Holland, she joins his friend Gus in following him into danger. There’s nothing ho-hum about her life now.
I enjoyed The War Pianist by Mandy Robotham. This historical fiction book was set in WWII in London, during the Blitz, and Amsterdam, during the Nazi occupation. Marnie Fern was a skilled radio transmitter, which was referred to as a 'war pianist.'
Her grandfather is killed in an air raid and it is then that she discovers he was an undercover radio transmitter working for the Dutch resistance. Willem was her grandfather's contact in London and approaches Marnie to take over the role of her grandfather in the Dutch resistance. Her grandfather had taught her Morse Code as a child so in order to honor her grandfather, she agrees to do so.
In Amsterdam another radio transmitter, known as Daisy, was her contact to transmit the messages. The more Marnie worked with the resistance, she became less trusting of everyone. Later Daisy sends a message to Marnie to relay a message to Willem. She is unable to find him, but later learns that he returned to Amsterdam. Why did he suddenly return to Amsterdam? Does she find him? Is she able to get this important message to him?
It's a story of espionage, betrayal, love, and bravery. I look forward to reading another of her books.
When I read the title of this book (The War Pianist by Mandy Robotham) and that the setting was during WWII, my first thoughts were, "OK, this about a concert pianist who also worked as a spy". Not only was I wrong, but I learned more about the term 'pianist'. I will not discuss what this referred to as I want any future readers to learn as I had. My husband, being a WWII buff, was extremely intrigued, to say the least. His brother even asked me to write down the name and author so he could purchase the book.
Full of intrigue, "The War Pianist" kept me drawn in and wanting to know what happened next.
The book's ending was not written as an epilogue but served the same purpose (since this is an ARC it may still be labeled as such). An unusual way to end the book but very interesting, just the same.
I will definitely pick up another book by Mandy Robotham as she was a new to me author. The book releases Aug. 1, 2023.
An advanced copy was provided for my review, however, all opinions are my own.
I love books set during WWII and this one is another great one! It kept my interest the whole time! Definitely recommend this book and author! Thank you for the ARC NetGalley
This was one powerful story. Marnie worked for the BBC as an asst producer. during the early 1940's. Her grandfather was a tailor that was well known. When she finds him dead from one of Germany's bombing, she is heartbroken. A few days later, she has snuck into his store and found a Morse Coding machine. She is shocked to find he was a coder (pianist) for the resistance. She is recruited and has always known Morse code as she and her grandfather would practice sending messages to each other for fun. She has met Willem who was her grandfather's contact and they become close. The story tells about her training and how she gets close to Daisy - who is at the other side of her messages. Eventually the German's are on to all of them and there is alot of drama, surprises (good and bad) . These people go to alot of trouble to help other people for no reward except looking for freedom. I loved the book and all its history. The story shows all the heart the resistance had
I got this book from NetGalley and am voluntarily leaivng a review.
1940 London during the blitz and Amsterdam at the beginning of the occupation, which is worse? Marnie is an assistant producer for the BBC in London when her beloved grandfather is killed in his shop by a bomb. Corrie is in Amsterdam desperately trying to fuel the Dutch resistance with information from London. The women’s stories run parallel as Marnie becomes recruited by Willem to be the pianist (radio operator) in place of her grandfather. Her Dutch contact is Corrie. There is ample tension and suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Marnie and Corrie are strong characters, demonstrating the sacrifices women make for love of family and country. Mandy Robotham did her research to present a realistic view of life in London and Amsterdam. This is an excellent addition to the WWII historical fiction canon.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this arc in exchange for an honest review.
Mandy Robotham is one of my favorite WWII fiction authors, and one of my favorite historical fiction authors in general. She just keeps getting better and better and this book is exceptional. I love how she draws you into a different time and place - you feel you are right there with the characters as they bravely endure the horrors of WWII. I loved the different characters and storylines, and really enjoyed every minute I spent with this novel. This is a keeper, and I can't wait to own a print copy! A great fix for all the WWII buffs out there, but even if you have stayed clear of the genre, I know you will enjoy this book!
Radios were one of the most vital lifelines during the dark days of WWII.
Once again, Robotham returns readers to the rhythms of war, loss, sacrifice, and the most unusual friendships.
One thing I like about this author is that she keeps dining up with fresh presentations of a field that so much has been written.
It’s a tender, compassionate story.
I loved this book about a pianist (not what you think) in London and Amsterdam working together and putting their lives on the line for the resistance. This is my first novel by this author and she did an excellent job keeping the reader's attention with the tension and unknowns of WW2. The vivid details of London's part in the war intertwined with Netherlands painted a beautiful picture of hope, survival and loss. A must read 5 star book
In a stunning new historical fiction novel, Mandy Robotham brings the Dutch resistance and World War II radio communication to life. Following Marnie Fern, Corrie Baker, and their loved ones in Blitz-era London and the occupied Netherlands, Robotham brings the perilous nature of resistance work and the constant suspicion of friends, colleagues and neighbors to life. Robotham also brings the 1940s BBC to life, emphasizing the continued work and propaganda efforts of the BBC despite the destruction and chaos around them. Robotham’s characters are the heart of the story, especially through her use of the dual perspectives of Marnie and Corrie to bring the two ends of their radio traffic to life. Her characters are strong, lively, suspicious, and brave as the war progresses around them, while these women and their compatriots continue to keep calm and carry on with their daily lives and resistance work. The settings -- London and the Netherlands -- play huge roles in the story, shaping the characters’ understandings of the war and their place in it, and Robotham brings the war-torn character of these countries to the front of the novel with all her powers of description. The War Pianist is a fascinating high-stakes novel of World War II that draws readers into a complex, dangerous world.