Cover Image: The Opera Sisters

The Opera Sisters

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Member Reviews

This book was fascinating. Although as with much historical fiction, liberties were taken with some facts to maintain the flow of the story, it did a really good job exposing both the horrors of war and the hope that people still had despite the situation they were in. I loved the sisters. They were determined and so incredibly kind to everyone who came to them for help. And when Ida could no longer get refugees out, she went to the bomb shelters. Very well done.
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3 1/2 stars.  Ida and Louise Cook are sisters who adore the opera.  When money allows, their pleasure is found at the opera or in purchasing records of favorite operas.   Enough so that the major names of the time begin to know them and befriend them.  When Hitler comes to power, their connections in the opera world become invaluable as they work to help save lives of those in danger of this new regime.  While finances are tight for themselves and their families and neighbors, they are able to save many lives.  

I love true stories and this one was great.  I will admit that it started slow for me, but once I got into the story and got to know the characters, I really came to appreciate and love these sisters.  My only wish is that I had a list to keep on hand of everyone in the story so I could keep them straight.  So much happening and so many names!  But I suppose that's a good thing, as there was so much good these women were able to do.  And their courage was amazing in the midst of the tumultuous times of WWII.  

Thanks to NetGalley and Shadow Mountain for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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What a story indeed! Based on the true story of the Cook sisters, we follow Ida and Louise in their journey as events unfolded before, during, and after World War II in London. So much heartbreak in comes through from that time period and yet so much hope was given for those who could, and did, escape, no matter what the circumstances were. I liked how Marianne added little notes following the chapters where she changed or altered events to fit her story, but gave account of the truth of those moments or people so their real stories wouldn't get lost in time. Very well done.
*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my own opinion*
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This title started out with such potential to be a great story. However, I was let down by the slow moving plot and the lack of a hook in the story after the first few chapters. I did not find myself drawn back to read further.
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I enjoyed reading this book. i really respect these women and what they did. It is sad that there was a need for them to do what they did but I'm glad that there were still good people in the world even during such a terrible time. I thought this book was well researched and the storytelling was well done.
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I have studied the history of WWII, emphasizing the Holocaust, yet I did not know about the Cook sisters.  The author did a great job describing London during the war, as well as the fear and the horrors facing European Jews.  Ida and Louise Cook started out as opera lovers, and in their travels, met musical artists who needed help escaping Germany, then Czechoslovakia and Poland.  The variety of accounts of different families assisted by the Cook sisters to come to London ID astounding in their bravery and empathy.  I highly recommend this book.  Make sure to read the author’s notes which add to the authenticity of the writing.  Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.
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I enjoy reading WWII historical fiction, and this book has a different focus than those I typically read. I liked the premise of the book itself, but the presentation of the story was lacking. That, however, does not take away from the courage demonstrated by the Cook sisters. It once again demonstrated how your average person could accomplish much to help the Jewish people who were being targeted by Hitler and his reign of terror. While the author did a lot of research, the facts and footnotes distracted me and took away from my pleasure in reading the book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Shadow Mountain for my advanced review copy. All opinions and thoughts are my own.

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Monson is becoming one of my favorite biographical and historical authors. Well researched and beautifully written (and edited). Because this isn’t a biography, the history was combined and edited with care, keeping the heart of the story intact.

My only complaint is I struggled to track all the characters. I think if I'd read this over a shorter period of time, it would've been easier. Plus, I read at night when my brain was tired. Remembering everyone's backstory didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the novel, however.

This is a different perspective on WW II. With all the individuals and families involved in the war, it's no surprised that there are some amazing stories I haven't heard. I loved hearing this one about the Cook sisters. It shows a bit about how history repeats itself, and how ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they ask questions and then act with compassion.
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The Opera Sisters by Marianne Monson is based on the story of the Cook sisters, who smuggled valuables given to them by Jewish citizens of Nazi Germany to England to finance a daring secret operation to help Jews find a place for hope and a new life in England during the 1930s.

Two British sisters, unmarried and living with their parents have a love of opera.  They have traveled all over Europe to attend performances.  They become well-known among operatic performers and other opera lovers. 

When Hitler Seized power in Germany in 1933, the sisters continued to travel to operatic performances in Austria and Germany.  Through their contacts with the maestros and performers, they were made aware of the precarious position of any Jewish performer or opera lover.  They were contacted to try to help them by secreting any valuables, jewels, and furs that they could smuggle back to England to provide money for those Jews who were able to make it to England.  They also put themselves in harm’s way by providing false identification for persons who were able to find sponsors for them in England.  They did this openly by wearing jewels and furs as they traveled back to Britain right under the noses of the SS.

They should have stopped their saving work when the borders were closed after the war was declared, but one of the sisters tried until the last instant to continue to provide help to those who needed to escape.  Their only regret was that they could not save more from the tyranny of the Nazi regime.

I loved this story and to know that it was an actual occurrence during that horrible time was very gratifying to me to know that normal people were helping at great peril to themselves to try to save as many as possible.  I highly recommend this novel.
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The true story of two opera loving sisters doing what they could to smuggle valuables out of Nazi Germany to finance a daring, secret operation to help Jews find hope for a new life in England. 
I had never heard of the Cook sisters before, but I was intrigued when I first saw this book. Now that I finished reading, I’m glad I read it, but I do feel as though I need to find a biography to really understand these two women.  They accomplished a remarkable feat, saving 29 families from death. 
This is a book that seemed undecided about if it was a fiction book or a nonfiction one. It is divided into three parts, but those parts are not divided into chapters. Instead, there are vignettes, brief glimpses into the lives of the sisters or what was happening at the time. Frequently, the vignettes would end with a footnote with a reference or note about what was changed for the fictional narrative. I’ve never read a book like this and I really don’t think I’m a fan of the style. 

I appreciated that the author mentions the other people (those with disabilities, Roma, Sinti, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc) who were also killed in the concentration camps. It shows just how much research she did on the subject.
I think those who are interested in true stories from World War 2 might enjoy reading this one.
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This book was so well written. 
The Opera Sisters is about two sisters that love Opera music, and are regularly traveling to Opera festivals during the World War. This is a story of bravery as the two sisters set their actions to rescuing Jews from the dangers in Germany. 

I was impressed by the research that clearly went into this story. Very very well written.
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The Opera Sisters tells the story of two sisters who spent the long years of WW2 saving as many lives as they could. Though few in number, the impact they had on each family they saved is infinite. This book is rich with historical detail, touching moments, and inspiration. One of the biggest takeaways readers can walk away with is this: Help others, no matter if those around you stay silent. Be brave, even when others hide away. Never give up, no matter if everyone else has. Because the impact we can make in a broken world when we refuse to stay silent or still is astounding. 

(CW: N/A This book was squeaky clean!)

Thank you to NetGalley and the author for an eARC of The Opera Sisters. A positive review was not required, only my honest opinion. All thoughts are expressly my own.
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I had heard a lot of hype about this book, so I grabbed a copy (thank you Netgalley and Shadow Mountain publishing). It is very evident the author did a lot of study and research for this book. I loved reading about the amazing work, courage, creativity, survival skills and determination, these sisters had. The amount of people they helped, be it 29 families to hundreds of individuals, is incredible. Everyone one of those people were blessed by the diligence of those sisters. As for the writing, I didn’t feel drawn into story. The facts and footnotes were too distracting. Was it written as a fiction or nonfiction? While some facts are essential to making a story pop off the page, too many can weight it down. In addition, keeping track of so many characters, made my head swim. So in the end, I do not regret reading the book, because the history and interesting personal stories. I really didn’t feel a connection to any of the characters and the storyline was more like a timeline. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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A fascinating look into such a dark time in history. This was so well written and had me from the very beginning.
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This is the first book I’ve read by this author and I loved it! It was filled with love, loss, hope and sorrow. Marianne did a fabulous job on a very sensitive part of history and made me have hero worship for these two sisters. Definitely recommend!
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Just when you think you’ve read or heard all the really great stories about the greatest generation, a book like the Opera Sisters comes along and shows me that we will never, ever be able to tell ALL of the stories, but we should endeavor to learn all the stories available to us.

To look at the official data of their lives, one might assume that Ida and Louise Cook were simply two spinster sisters who worked hard and loved music and their cat.

In truth, they were these things, but they were also brave, courageous, kind, compassionate, generous, and loved. As Europe turned darker and darker at the edge of the 1930s, they risked their lives to help many refugees find a safe place to survive World War 2. They stretched themselves to the limit to help virtual strangers and their hearts broke when they couldn’t rescue everyone.

This book is worth reading just to learn from Ida and Louise. The narrative feels a bit stilted at times and I felt like the book tried to cover too much of the war. It wasn’t a “read straight through” book for me. I had to take it in smaller chunks, which sometimes made it hard for me to remember characters and timelines. While The Opera Sisters wasn’t my favorite WW2 read, I am absolutely glad I read it!

Thank you to the author and Shadow Mountain Publishing for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
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The Opera Sisters by Marianne Monson is a roller coaster of a novel. In this novel we meet the Cook sisters, Louise, and Ida. Through the sisters, we are exposed to the wonders of opera.  We have operas and operatic songs explained to us. We meet several operatic personalities of the time. Highly informative, very entertaining.   The Cook sisters also takes us to the terrible world of Jews in Germany leading up to the war. We meet many men, women, children, and families (based on true people) who are suffering under Nazi rule. Ida and Louise, through tireless work endeavor to recuse as many as possible. We see the struggle through the sisters’ eyes as well as through the eyes of the many people they save. Throughout the book are footnotes which explain some of historical and personal facts. This is a fiction novel which reads like non-fiction. The bond between sisters is also highlighted in this novel. To raise money, Ida Cook write romance novels and becomes a published author under the name of  Mary Burchell.  Very interesting and enlightening book.  I learned historical facts and situations I never knew. Will recommend it to friends.
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Loved this book! And a portion of the royalties are donated to the Holocaust memorial efforts

I really enjoyed the list of real people at the beginning

Ida and Louise are sisters who go to the German opera while Hitler is rising in power, Jewish members approach the sisters for help and it's beautiful and heartbreaking
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The publisher’s blurb is a little sensational, but the basic idea is there. These two ordinary women saved the lives of 29 families by helping them to leave the oppression of the Nazi regime before WWII started.

Rather than a “normal” chapter format, this story is told in vignettes of varying lengths. Some of those vignettes are more about the history of the war than about the story at hand, but it all hangs together to give the reader the full picture of what Louise and Ida lived through. The scrupulous research is evident in the suggested reading list and lengthy end notes.

We mostly see Ida’s experience; Louise was able to leave London during the Blitz, but Ida lived through all the horror. We see her depression at not being able to save more people, and her horror at night after night of German bombing. We also see her hope in the little things, like a garden of crocuses in an otherwise obliterated street.

Because this is closely based on true lives and history, there’s not necessarily the dramatic climax that we look for in a work of fiction. But there is a very happy (at least for me) resolution.

It should be noted that the author is donating a portion of her earnings from this book to Holocaust memorials.

Possible Objectionable Material:
We see the atrocities of Jewish oppression, including Kristallnacht and mention of concentration camps. There are some quite descriptive passages of nights of German bombs raining down on London, and the injuries that resulted. Technically, Ida and Louise are smugglers, as they take the jewels and furs of their Jewish friends back to England with them.

Who Might Like This Book:
Those who like stories based in truth. If you’re interested in WWII heroes, and especially the ones you’ve never heard of before, give this book a try. It’s appropriate, I think, for anyone from middle school on up, although younger readers might find it a bit slow going.

Thank you to Shadow Mountain Publishing and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for my opinion.

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So loved all the detailed history contained within these pages and footnoted so clearly.  It definitely intrigued me and had me busy reading more factual history online.  Books where I am learning while reading a story are my very favorite literary experience.  This read focuses on two amazing sisters who risked their lives many times to help Jewish citizens escape their very threatened lives during the war.  Their love for opera opened up a whole new world for them.  The book serves as a reminder of the power of music…used to both soothe the masses, but also by the Nazis to torture.  I was fascinated by Clemens Krause and felt the need to further research him.  I was also surprised at the support Hitler had from Americans early on.  I have read other books that alluded to this as well so off to research I will go.  I loved both Louise and Ida, very different but both so very committed.  They were both exceedingly brave.  
I was so disheartened to read about how devastated the country of England was by the constant bombing.  I enjoyed learning about doodlebugs.  I cannot imagine living through this siege day after day.
The most moving part of the book for me was a speech by Churchill quoted within the book, “(This is the) victory of the cause of freedom in every land.  In all our long history, we have never seen a greater day than this….The lights went out and the bombs came down.  But every man, woman and child in the country had no thought of quitting the struggle.  London can take it.”
“I say that in the long years to come not only the people of this island but of the world, wherever the bird of freedom chirps in human hearts, will look back to what we’ve done and they will say “Do not despair, do not yield to violence and tyranny, march straightforward and die, if need be, unconquered.”  Such timely words that still hold true today for the citizens of Ukraine.
My deep admiration to Marianne Monson for giving me the opportunity to learn so much history in such an interesting way, Shadow Mountain for seeing the brilliance of this read, and NetGalley for affording me the absolute pleasure of reading an arc of this recently published book.
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