I really wanted to like this one. The story felt really anti-climatic, the characters felt flat. It had a few moments where I thought it might pick up, but those moments were short lived.
I think this story has a ton of potential, and so does the writer. Maybe this book just didn't hit me at the right time, or maybe I'm tired of this type of subject matter and they are taking on a certain formula.
Tolsma always know how to pull on my hear strings. Once again she tells a story that will have readers full of emotion, reaching for tissues, and find the hope is times of sorrow. This was a great story.
I received a complimentary copy of this book and was not required to write a favorable review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Omg this book destroyed me. It is such a tearjerker. Thank you to netgalley for letting me read this e arc in exchange for an honest opinion
Amazing story. This book will have you crying, holding on to the edge of your seat, and hopeful. I enjoyed reading this latest book. Great Historical fiction.
What I Would Tell You is a dual timeline novel, set in the present and during World War II.
As you can expect, the World War II aspect of the story is not the typical happy-ever-after story I often read and review.
Mathilda Nissim is a Sephardic Jew living in Salonika, Greece, at the outbreak of World War II. She writes and publishes a newsletter for her fellow Jews … an activity she continues at great risk after the Germans invade. She is a quiet leader who is determined that her people resist the Germans so they don’t suffer the rumoured fate of German and Polish Jews.
It’s not hard to see this is going to be the bittersweet part of the story.
Even this introduced two new aspects of history to me. First, the fact there were Jews in Greece (which shouldn’t surprise me given the number of Paul’s letters which are addressed to Jewish-Christian communities in Greece).
Second, I have never heard of Sephardic Jews before. Tolsma explains at the beginning of the novel that the Sephardic Jews were forced to leave Spain in 1492 and scattered across north Africa, southern Europe, and western Asia. Many ended up in in Greece, where this story begins.
One of the things I like most about reading historical fiction is learning new things about history.
In this respect, Liz Tolsma more than delivered. The historical story was strong and fascinating. Mathilda was a great character, and the only problem with reading the historic scenes was that unwanted and uncomfortable foreknowledge of how the story is likely to end (there are very few happy endings for Jews in German-occupied territory of World War II).
Tessa Payton is an American psychology student who undertakes a DNA test and finds she has Spanish and Sephardic Jewish heritage. Her cousin doesn’t … which means they’re not actually related. She decides to go to Thessaloniki, Greece, to see if she can figure out the mystery.
While I enjoyed watching Tessa travel around Greece (and eat all that wonderful Greek food), I found Tessa considerably less intelligent than Mathilda, to the point of being annoying (it is possible to be Jewish and Christian, and we both worship the same God). I also thought there were a few too many coincidences in the current-day timeline. Yes, I know it’s fiction, a made-up story, but it does need to be believable.
What I Would Tell You is a dual timeline story, and I found the past story stronger than the present … at least until the end. The ending definitely ticked all the boxes.
Recommended for fans of dual timeline fiction and historical fiction set in World War II.
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.
What a heart wrenching story. I absolutely adored the Greek setting. The dual time worked really well for this one because just as I would be getting my heart ripped out from the WW2 timeline I would get a breath of fresh air in modern day Greece. I had no idea how Greece had been affected during the war. And there were Jews that lived in Greece who spoke a language similar to Spanish. Who knew? This is their story. They were placed in ghettos, transported. This is like other WW2 novels, yet nothing like them. I loved this and savored it because there were some really difficult parts and I had to set it aside at times. But what a story! Highly recommend it to all WW2 lovers.
This was a powerful story that was rich in historical detail. I didn’t want to put it down.
Many thanks to Barbour Publishing and to NetGalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.
An intriguing start to the story. I really liked how the author portrayed and described the life of Mathilda and Tessa. I can’t imagine what it must have been like during World War II and being invaded by an evil regime.
I was intrigued by the mystery of Tessa’s search for her family genealogy. I believe you will find this book quite fascinating and I believe it is so pertinent to read about this sad chapter in history than ever before! Documented well and a great book to share with our youth. I learned about the Sephardic Jewish peoples from Greece who went through these horrific times.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28.” I received this book for free from Celebrate Lit Tour and the opinions I express are honest and my own.
This book is a Christian Historical Fiction read that takes place in 1941 and 2019. Tessa is on a journey to find out her family history, is she ready for what she finds out? As she goes to Greece to research the past, she finds heartbreaking history for her family ancestors. She uncovers the story of what Sephardic Jew's went through and how they had little faith. Can she find her own faith and how it reflects her life today?
I would recommend this book to those that like to read about history and get into a deep difficult time in life. This is not a happy book, however, it is a story that makes you think and realize how good we have it in today's world. It shows what the world has been like in the past for people in need and have not hope. It is about having faith and holding onto hope.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Celebrate Lit Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255, "Guides Concerning the Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book. These are my honest thoughts.
I enjoyed both premises of this book: a writer defying an evil dictator and a young woman searching for her identity in the country of her ancestors. While I sometimes get weary of the time-slip genre, this one was well written in that aspect. My favorite part was the atmosphere in Greece, which came alive on the pages. I’m sure this was due in part to the author’s having traveled there (as mentioned in the author’s note).
It was disappointing that two historical facts were altered significantly to push a feministic agenda as well as to suit the story’s timeline. I prefer historical fiction to stick to historical facts and adjust the story’s timeline to fit the actual historical timeline. To me, that is how we learn from history even within a fictional story while also honoring those people who lived out the tragedies and successes of the era in which the fiction is set. Instead, what this book offered was a version of “cancel culture” that pushed a man out of his role in history so that a woman could take his place, and significantly changed the course of a pivotal event for the sake of “dramatic effect.” The real-life version of the event was actually more dramatic and would have significantly ramped up the tension and stakes within the fictional story, as I’m sure it did for the people who truly lived it out in the 1940s.
Another difference in this book than in the author’s previous works is that some pretty large questions the author created in my mind were never answered. I noticed this about halfway through (which was where the “dramatic effects” were happening), and that’s when I began losing interest in the story. It’s not normal for me to close a Tolsma book with more pending questions than when I started reading it.
There were some other issues I noted, but the most important of those was that one soul-saving scene likely wouldn’t have happened because of what the Bible says about people who have died coming back to warn their loved ones about what comes after death. Luke 16:22-31 (NKJ) says, “So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’”
The memory of reading that Bible story many times as a young child pulled me right out of the story, and the context of the parable made the finale of the novel unrealistic to me.
I really wanted to love this book. The back-cover copy was right up my alley. The cover was deliciously moody and hinted that I was in for a good Gothic tale. It was a lot less Gothic-y than I was hoping for, so it didn’t live up to the cover in that way.
Content: skimpy clothing, derogatory term, alcohol, tobacco, breastfeeding
I’ve read many books by Liz Tolsma, and I have always felt that her WWII novels were some of her best ones. She is excellent at weaving in her research with her characters and their stories, ensuring that everything is historically accurate as possible, while also making the plotlines interesting and her readers turning the pages.
There is so much to say about this book. First of all, I loved Mathilda’s story. It took me a while to get into, but once I did, I did not want to stop reading it. While it is fictional, she represents what many women in Greece had to endure during that time. In general, I did not know what it was like for Greece during World War II. I had no idea what the people had to go through. Mathilda remained strong, though, through everything. She fought so hard for what was right, for her and her people’s freedom, and for her own family.
I wish I could say I enjoyed Tessa’s story as much as I enjoyed Mathilda’s. However, I never felt quite connected to Tessa. Instead of feeling like I was walking with her through her journey like I did Mathilda, I felt like I was just a bystander, only watching. This does not mean that I did not like her story–I did–it just seemed a bit rushed and somewhat incomplete to me. This did not take away from the rest of the book, however. Tessa is still important. For those of us who did not experience World War II, Tessa represents the insatiable curiosity of that time period that I believe it important for us to all have. This time period was a very dark one, one where many people suffered and died. Where freedoms were stripped and humans were not treated as humans. We need to remember this time as many who lived during it leave this world and take their memories with them.
This book will tug and pull at every emotion. You will cry with Mathilda during her trials but rejoice with her in her small victories. You will question and need to learn more with Tessa as she travels to Greece to find out more about her past. You will be left with a feeling of closure but also sadness for those who endured the Nazis’ regime. Overall, if you are a fan of split-time and World War II fiction, I would highly recommend this novel.
I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley and this is my honest opinion.
If you have followed my book reviews for any amount of time, then you know that I love Time Slip novels. Since I am currently researching my own family history and have submitted my own DNA to find out more about where I come from, I have been reading a lot of genealogy mysteries and fiction. Liz Tolsma’s latest release marries Time Slip and genealogy together. Ms. Tolsma’s What I Would Tell You transports you between the 1940s and 2019, telling the story of Tessa, a young college student in 2019 who submits her DNA to find out more about her family history, and when she gets it back it’s nothing like she expected. Due to the unexpected find in her DNA, Tessa takes an impromptu trip to Greece to learn more about her heritage and Greek Sephardic Jews. While in Greece she learns about a woman named Mathilda Nissim, a Greek Sephardic Jew, on a mission to save her People from Nazi Occupation. Through the journals Mathilda left behind, Tessa gains a new appreciation for her family and the sacrifices that were made–past and present.
I love that Liz Tolsma brings a part of history to the reader that they may have not known existed. In Ms. Tolsma’s writing, her writing paints Greece so vividly to the reader that regardless of whether you are reading the parts about the 1940s or 2019, you feel as though you are transported to Greece in both time and place. I love the strength and gumption that both Mathilda and Tessa possess. I love how Mathilda stood up for what she believed was right regardless of the cost or danger. I love how fiercely protective Mathilda is of her Jewish community and then, when she finds out that she is expecting, she is fiercely protective of her child too. Tessa also stood up for what was right in her own way, which is nice to see. My heart broke for Mathilda and everything she went through, but I was thankful that she had a friend like Ioanna that stood with her through thick and thin. I love that all the women in the book had their own kind of strength. I also love the relationship of Mathilda and Asher and Tessa and Giannis. I love how each relationship had respect for each other and were supportive of one another. If you are looking for a book that will touch your heart and take you on a journey of parts of history that need to be known, I highly recommend that you read What I Would Tell You by Liz Tolsma!
I would like to thank NetGalley and the Publisher for the opportunity to read this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. My review is also on Goodreads and my blog, Leslie's Library Escape.
I've read a number of WWII novels, and this is the first one I've read that was set in Greece. The DNA angle was also a unique, and interesting, twist. And I really appreciated the fact that it was a dual timeline novel, as it gives more depth to the storyline. I liked the author's note, which gave more information on the Ladino language (something I was unfamiliar with prior to this story). It's obvious that the book was well researched. For the contemporary side, some details felt a bit like an afterthought, as if to try and pull things in at the end. Themes of faith, forgiveness, and family are woven throughout. While there is a small romance angle, it's not overpowering. The cover is a good fit for the story, and it's likely to attract historical fiction readers.
Liz Tolsma has written a really beautiful and moving dual time line story focusing on the Jewish community in 1940’s Greece and the horrors of Nazi control in WWII. Mathilda’s heartbreaking story is one of motherhood, faith, and courage. Modern day Tessa’s storyline weaves her relationship struggles and finding her identity with the past and her faith journey. The stories weave seamlessly but not predictably together in this encouraging and thought provoking book.
Thank you to NetGalley and Barbour for the opportunity to read for honest review.
An amazing dual-time storyline. The characters, Mathilda and Tessa were well written and easy to fall in love with. I enjoyed the way the author brings you into the past as a Jew during WWII, it brought another perspective to the Holocaust, seeing it firsthand through Mathilda’s eyes. I couldn’t wait to see how the storylines would come together and how each would end. It was a book I couldn’t put down, and I can’t wait for the next one! I highly recommend this one!
**I received this book as part of the CelebrateLit blog team. I was not required to write a positive review and all thoughts and opinions are my own.
This is the eighth book I've read by Tolsma, and just the second I didn't really care for (the other being A Promise Engraved, and for much the same reasons).
Both plot lines sounded fascinating, and I love that Tolsma tackled the historical one; it's an aspect of WWII history I had no exposure to prior to this read, and it certainly merits more. (Plus, who hasn't dreamed of just hopping on a plane to Europe, as in the present-day plot? #dangerouslytempting hahah!) That historical element was absolutely gutting; Tolsma certainly did her research, and it shows here.
Unfortunately for me, both characters frustrated me at varying points of the read, mostly when they seemed to express attitudes of "I want to do this and am just going to, regardless of what others/my loved ones say." (Not that I've ever done/thought that, of course...LOL. Maybe I saw too much of myself there that it hit a bit too close to home? But they didn't really articulate their responses satisfactorily and it read very immaturely.) Even logistics confused me; at one point, a character cancels a plane ticket someone else booked on her behalf, and gets the money deposited back in her bank account. I might be wrong :), but 99x/100, cancelled plane tickets would go back to the original form of payment and not as cash one could readily deposit in a different bank account.
And ... the denouement felt too rushed to maintain believability. With as much detail as the first two-thirds to three-quarters of the book included, it read as "oh we need to wrap up loose ends quickly," with convos and stories coming out of nowhere. I would have personally found the read more effective if it included seeds throughout that "not all was as seen on the surface"--which could be achieved at least partly with a tighter editing hand (less telling, more showing/inferring).
I'd recommend Tolsma's books in the _Doors to the Past_ series--all very good!--as solid alternatives to this particular read.
I received an eARC of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
I am not a huge fan of split time novels. Nor am I a big fan of World War Two novels. But this book by Tolsma is so different you will find yourself engulfed in its pages, turning page after page. It is about the jews in Salonika in Greece during the reign of the Nazi overtaking. But it is so much more. It is the story of a fierce and loyal woman who stood for the rights of the people and the love between Asher and Mathilda Nissim. As the Germans grow more powerful and ferocious, Asher and Mathilda must try to stay alive. Their love story is filled with tension due to the Jewish blood that runs through their veins. It is so sad to read of the inhuman way the Germans treated them, mistreating and beating the people until their will was broken. Herding them like cattle into boxcars, lying to them that they were being taken to Poland to new homes. Only to face death at the end of the journey. The book is hard to read at times because of the pain and sorrows of the Jewish people. Then on a lighter side, Tessa from the states is searching for her roots and as she visit Greece, we get to visit the beautiful sites. Tolsma has done her research well and has written a most interesting novel in What Would I Tell You…..I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.
I am quickly becoming a fan of Liz Tolsma. Her stories are captivating and take the reader on quite the journey. This dual-timeline story is no different.
I didn’t know much if anything about the Jews in Salonika, Greece. Also interesting and quite surprising was the fact that the people did not fight back as in other parts of the world when the Nazis came to take control.
Mathilda’s determination to fight back, at great risk to herself was inspiring and frightening all at the same time. The choices she made, especially when it came to her own child were heart-wrenching.
Getting to know Riley and watching her discover her own heritage and was a wonderful part to this story. Journeying to where the two stories overlapped was very well done and took me through quite the emotional roller coaster.
I love stories where the characters go on paths to discovery. In watching them learn about themselves they inevitably teach me something about myself too.
Thank you to Barbour for the copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
A story that is heartbreaking and inspirational. The daily lives of each character remind the reader of the horror that exisits in the world. Religious freedom, forgiveness, faith, family secrets, and love are all found in this exceptional story. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.
What are the things you would tell...?
Some books are difficult to read. Not because they are poorly written but because truth isn't always easy to hear, or in this case read. The events surrounding the Holocaust reveal humanity at its worst – and its best. The juxtaposition between hate and hope, cruelty and sacrifice, have never been more in evidence than the facts of history as seen through the fictional eyes of the characters in What I Would Tell You.
I've read secular author Mary Stewart's novels set in Greece so I had the tiniest of inklings of what the Greeks went through during WWII. But not that of the Jewish community. I especially had no idea the devastation and heartbreak of Salonika (Thessaloniki). Liz Tolsma changed that in 320 pages. There were times that I almost felt like I was there under the hot Greek sun...
My favorite thread of the dual timeline of What I Would Tell You was the modern one. Riley's search for her own history and place in her suddenly changed world was something I could certainly understand.
Liz Tolma's latest is a moving story that is both bitter and sweet. It is full of darkness and hope. And it will leave you looking at things a little bit differently once that last sometimes heartrending page is turned...
(I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are entirely my own.)