The Opera Sisters
by Marianne Monson
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Pub Date 06 Sep 2022 | Archive Date 20 Sep 2022
Shadow Mountain Publishing, Shadow Mountain
British sisters Ida and Louise Cook enjoy their quiet, unassuming lives in south London. Ida writes romance novels, and Louise works as a secretary. In the evenings, the sisters indulge in their shared love for opera, saving their money to buy records and attend performances throughout England and Europe, becoming well-known by both performers and fellow opera lovers.
But when Hitler seizes power in 1933, he begins targeting and persecuting German Jews, passing laws that restrict their rights and their lives. The sisters continue their trips to the German opera houses, but soon, Jewish members of the opera community covertly approach the sisters, worried that they will be stripped of their wealth and forced to leave their homes and the country. Danger looms on the horizon, threatening to spill across all of Europe’s borders.
Ida and Louise vow to help, but how can two ordinary working-class women with limited means make a difference?
Together with their beloved opera community, the sisters devise a plan to personally escort Jewish refugees from Germany to England. The success of the plan hinges on Ida and Louise’s ability to smuggle contraband jewelry and furs beneath the watchful eyes of the SS soldiers guarding various checkpoints. But how many trips can they make before someone blows a whistle? Or before the final curtain falls on Germany’s borders?
The Opera Sisters is a riveting and inspiring novel of two unlikely heroines whose courage and compassion gave hope to many Jews desperate to escape Nazi persecution.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 105 members
“The Opera Sisters” by Marianne Monson tells the true story about Ida and Louise Cook, two British sisters who, during WWII, worked to bring refugees, mainly Jewish, from occupied territory to the UK. Ida had written a book about their story called “Safe Passage,” which was reference material for this book.
Judging the book itself, not being a fan of opera, I found the first part of this book, while setting up the background of the sisters and how they came to travel to Germany to attend opera festivals, to be rather slow moving. There was a bit too much opera discussed for me, but maybe opera fans might enjoy that section. The book picked up a bit of pacing when Ida and Louise are approached by mutual friends about taking jewelry to England, followed by the women working to help those who needed to escape from the continent. I found the last part of this book again a bit slow, but it was summarizing the sisters after England went to war with Germany - effectively closing the borders and not allowing the sisters to physically travel to Germany. The fact that these women helped so many was interesting - especially how they did it. I also found the sections where “other stories” were included - such as a mention of the Spanish War affecting Pablo Picasso - interesting for an overall “this is the timeframe, here’s what else was going on.” In fact, in comparison to Ida’s book, which I also read, those sections give the book more depth - which I enjoyed. This book was interesting, but I found myself skimming a bit at the beginning (as I mentioned opera’s not my thing) and a bit toward the end. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.
THE OPERA SISTERS by MARIANNE MONSON is a beautifully written book based on the true story of Ida and Louise Cook, two ordinary women who loved music and opera, who did an extraordinary job saving as many Jews as they could from annihilation during the Nazi madness leading up to and during the second world war. The author has obviously done a grear deal of research and has used true stories which bring home to the reader the atrocities performed by Hitler and his regime against anyone who they saw as inferior. I like to see families showing incredible courage and patience as they hope to be reunited, and the love and compassion shown by Ida and Louise as they work tirelessly to obtain guarantees for the desperate people who come to them for help.
I cannot recomend The Opera Sisters highly enough. It is an inspirational read in which the author champions God’s Chosen People who suffer the consequences of anti-semitism, and honours those who, often at great danger to themselves, help them. It is not a book that I will forget in a hurry!
i was given a free copy of the book by NetGalley from Shadow Mountain Publishing. The opinions in this review are completely my own.
A truly amazing story! What these two women did and sacrificed to save others from the horrors of WW2, is truly inspirational. The lives that were saved and touched by these women are tremendous. They were national heroes, who did not do it for glory, but to save those they could. A must read!
Thank you to #NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
The Opera Sisters by Marianne Monson is a great WWII-era historical fiction that is based on a true story of selflessness and courage of epic proportions.
I found this true story based on Louise and Ida Cook, two British citizens, and their stunning and courageous action that helped smuggle and save at-risk Jewish individuals living in Germany.
This is a new story for me. I had not heard of these sisters participating in extraordinary acts. It is just amazing how one can read so much about WWII, and yet there are always new facets to pick up and experience.
The author did a great job setting the scene, adding rich historical detail and imagery, adding secondary and contemporary events to help give a broader perspective and timeline, and tied the fact and fiction together to give us a beautiful, gripping, and emotional journey of two women, joining forces with other “normal citizens” to help save innocent souls, and that helped in their own way, right some of the wrongs and atrocities that took place during this time. If only more people could be like these strong and courageous women.
A great read shedding light on a fabulous story.
Thank you NG and Shadow Mountain Publishing for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.
I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication on 9/6/22.
This was absolutely stunning. The plot was well-paced and captivating from start to finish. The characters were brave, courageous, and inspiring. I highly recommend this moving read! Many thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the advanced copy of the book.
I was drawn to this book by its beautiful cover, its connection to opera, and the tantalizing promise of a story based on real-life events of English sisters whose love of opera allowed them to help Jews to escape World War II Austria and Germany in order to begin new lives abroad.
The story did not disappoint, and this was a fascinating World War II historical novel..
Ida and Louise Cook are middle class British women, whose jobs as secretaries are largely dull. But they develop a passion for opera and attending concerts. This passion, combined with hopes of one day traveling abroad to visit the great opera houses, adds a dash of excitement and sophistication to their lives. Ida also manages to develop her hobby writing romance stories into a career with serial publications, allowing them to squirrel away their new earnings.
Both women are transformed by their first visit abroad, to Salzburg’s famous music festival, and by subsequent trips to Frankfurt. As their love for German and Austrian opera houses grow, they begin to make friends with those in the opera world, and learn that the situation is growing increasingly dire for the Jewish population as Hitler’s grip on power tightens.
At first, they are convinced to smuggle out precious jewels and furs owned by prominent Jewish families that will provide those families needed funds when they are able to flee their homeland. Soon, Ida and Louise are traveling back and forth and acting as guarantors for the refugees, and seeking other British families who will do the same.
Monson follows both the Cook sisters and the lives of the Jews they help escape, and the stories are both moving and gripping. My only complaint is that the novel is, at times, too sweeping in scope. As a reader, we were already following quite a large cast of characters, so hopping around to events such as the bombing in Guernica that inspired Picasso’s famous canvas, or Hitler and Chamberlain’s conversations, or the bombing of Pearl Harbor and numerous others should not have been handled as separate scenes, but rather discussed through conversations by the characters to keep us more grounded in the story.
Despite that, I greatly enjoyed this historical novel, and highly recommend it.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this novel, in exchange for an honest review.
This is a very interesting book based on two sisters who are obsessed with opera. They travel to performances and meet beloved divas.
It is during a trip to Germany that they unwittingly assist a Jewish family escape to London. This leads to a commitment to assist as many families as possible. They do this by finding sponsors which means lobbying their friends and acquaintances in London.
I have read several books with similar plots but this one was a different twist. The sisters are brave, inventive and successful….all with a backdrop of opera.
I highly recommend this book.
WW2 is a frequently written about theme, especially through the point of view of people who couldn't look the other way. Even as I predicted how the story would develop, I didn't know about the Cook sisters or their story.
By reading, you can tell the author did their research and, even when changing the narrative of what truly happened, it was based by true events and real people. It has a solid pace and it's an incredible piece of historical "fiction".
At times, I found myself skimming some parts, but it was a lovely read. It's astounding how history is repeating itself in so many ways.
I feel like i already knew this was going to be a high-rated book for me by how many lines I highlighted in only 20 pages.
Thank you so much to NetGalley for this ARC.
First of all the cover is beautiful and caught my attention immediately. I really thought I would love this book but it was just okay for me. That being said there will definitely be an audited for this book that will love it.
The Cook sisters, like so many others during WWII, were amazing and are to be commended for their work in aiding so many people. I loved that it was based on a true story.
What I didn't love was the sometimes overly wordy and descriptive prose, especially those pertaining to the opera. I found myself getting bored by it. Another thing that was hard for me was the little anecdotes throughout the story describing different events. It was like reading a novel and then all of the sudden reading from a text book.
But like I said, there will be an audience for this book and I think the author did the sisters justice with her story.
Rounded up from 3.5
I’m not a huge fan of opera and I don’t know much about it so that aspect of the story wasn’t my favorite. (Hence the 4 stars)
I loved the war and rescue parts of the story- it was very well done.
It was interesting to hear how they didn’t anticipate war, but when it came I liked the descriptions this author gave of the shelters and how the people carried on in spite of all the hardships.
The sisters in this book were so brave and generous and compassionate to the strangers they helped. A great read!
The Opera Sisters spans two decades, from 1923-1947, with the bulk of the story taking place in the late 30s and early 40s as WW2 is brewing and the Nazis are coming to power. Sisters Ida and Louise Cook are opera superfans, living and working in London and saving every spare coin for opera tickets. They end up befriending several big name opera singers as well as a German conductor. Through these friendships they begin an operation of helping facilitate the escape of refugees from Nazi controlled Germany and Austria. Based on a true story and real people, The Opera Sisters is a beautiful and of course tragic read.
The format of the book’s chapters worked really well for me, where instead of standard length chapters, it was more set almost as little stories/essays, some as long as a typical novel chapter but many only a couple paragraphs. With the amount of time this book covers, the stories managed to be succinct and clear, making it easy to follow the timeline even when a year or more passes between chapters. The only thing I didn’t love were a few of the opera descriptions felt really lengthy and not in a way that necessarily added to the book for me.
Overall I liked reading both about the people making their escapes and also the experiences of the Cook sisters as they did everything within their power to help.
I received a complimentary e-copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. Thanks to NetGalley and Shadow Mountain Publishing for the opportunity to read and review.
I love this of book tbe front cover is also eye catching. Plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader hooked.
A gripping and intense read
If all history books were written like this book everyone would want to study history! This book is based on true events and characters and it is fantastic. Louise and Ida are sisters living in England after the end of Worlds War I and they witness the events leading up to the second world war. They are normal women of little note working in regular jobs that have no glamour attached to them and living with their parents in London. But everything begins to change when they decide to buy a gramophone that introduces them to the wonder of opera. After experiencing operas on the gramophone, they determine to attend an opera in person. After much scrimping and saving they attend their first live opera and get to meet the star. When she mentions the grandeur of European Opera, they determine they will attend there. Through a series of surprising meetings, they become friends with many of the performers and some of their friends, and family members many of whom are Jewish. As the Nazi fervor begins to increase, they are approached and asked if they will aid in the rescue/escape of these people. When they agree that first time, they have no idea the impact and changes that one choice will have on their lives and the lives of others. This book is intense in part because you know these are real people making hard choices with heavy consequences. It pulls you in as you wonder if any success is even possible and rejoice when there is a success or fight tears when best efforts fail. There are frequent footnotes throughout the book and a section where the author notes the changes she made and the reasons why. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the copy. This is my review and all thoughts are my own.
What a story! Based on the lives of two English sisters and their courageous acts of kindness during WWII. The two working class sisters led quiet lives the most notable aspect of which was saving their lunch and bus fare money to purchase tickets to the opera.
Through chance meetings with members of the opera they become friends with some of its most prominent stars, and when the time comes for the Salzburg festival the sisters save their money to attend.
While in Germany they met stars of the stage who, feeling the political tides changing ask the unsuspecting sisters for help, help in getting some of their Jewish friends out of Germany, for fear of deportation or worse from Hitler's Nazis. The sisters agree, though they think their friends are over reacting. But as tensions increase and the sisters return to Germany they see the changes themselves and admit the danger for the Jewish people are real.
Louise and Ida Cook were just two single working women who enjoyed splurging every once in a while to attend the opera. They didn't set out to be heros. After helping the first family, the requests for their help came pouring in, they continued making trips into Austria and Germany despite the ever increasing danger right up until the time that war was declared between England and Germany effectively trapping the remaining Jews in a country that was trying to extinguish them.
This story is amazing. These are the kind of stories that fill my heart with joy. The kindness of strangers in a time of crisis. That these two ordinary women were able to persuade so many to help complete strangers is so amazing. And the fact that so many despite their own hardship circumstances were willing to extend themselves a little further and help these people who without their compassion would most assuredly have ended up in a camp or dead is amazing. It makes me wonder what would happen if we were faced with these situations today? Would people step up and help or would they, in today's "me first" society turn their backs and walk away? Could we ever experience the coming together as a nation, united by a common enemy and helping selflessly as the unsung heroes of WWII did? the more I read the more I marvel at all the acts of heroism, given freely and selflessly by so many ordinary citizens, it is truly awe-inspiring. I will continue my quest to read as many of these stories as I possibly can, to honor the heroic men and women of that time.
This book comes out in September, two days before my birthday, it will be my present to myself.
Thank you to the publisher and to Net Galley for the free ARC, I am leaving my honest review in return.
Ida and Louise Cook were two courageous sisters who showed their bravery in a time when most of us would have been terrified to go against authority. Leading up to the Second World War, they helped as many Jewish people as they could, not only escape Germany, but secure homes for them to live in in the safety of other countries. I had no idea when I requested this book that it was based on a true story, and that made me love this story even more.
The author included tons of historical articles and information in this book, which helped the reader understand what was happening at that time, bit could sometimes feel a bit long. There were parts of this book I feel could have been condensed, but overall it was a beautiful and inspiring read.
Thank you to NetGallery and Shadow Mountain Publishing for my advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest feedback.
One of the reasons I love historical fiction is the fact that I always learn something new. I was not aware of the Cook sisters and their bravery prior to this book. This novel follows true accounts of Louise and Ida who literally risked their lives on multiple occasions to help Jewish people escape Germany leading up to WWII. I’ve never read a historical fiction novel with footnotes at the end of most chapters. I’m on the fence on how I feel about it. Part of me prefers to read a story straight through without pause between chapters. However, I learned so much from the footnotes on what truly occurred and how certain historical accounts or timelines were shifted and woven into fit Monson’s narrative.
I did enjoy that there were chapters highlighting real individuals the Cook sisters worked with to get out of Germany. However, some chapters had only a half a page and it seemed to flip-flop around a lot from Ida and Louise characters. As a reader, you’re really rooting for everyone to have a happy ending despite knowing millions of Jews were murdered. This story is an a heartbreaking rollercoaster. I appreciate authors like Monson who shed light on these lesser known historical heroes and victims of the Holocaust.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It definitely had more historical accuracy and context that some other historical fiction novels that others may find more difficult to read. However, as a history lover, I found this very pleasant to read and want to read Ida’s memoir.
I am drawn to WWII era fiction - the resiliency of the people fighting for freedom is astonishing - and really enjoyed the Opera Sisters. I hadn’t read much about efforts to find British sponsors for adults and found that interesting.
Wow! What a story! These two sisters did so much to help those trying to flee from Nazi death. I can't even imagine the guts and grit these women had. I applaud them.
This story was commendable. I will admit that I did not love the writing style, but I got used to it. The characters were well developed, the story line riveting.
Here is my favorite quote. '“It is easy to think there are sharp lines dividing the good people and bad people , but most humans have dark passions inside waiting to be stirred up. It’s easier than we think to become convinced that decency is for the weak, that democracy is naïve, that kindness and respect for others are ridiculous. The whole world has been reminded these past few years that the things we care about have to be nurtured and defended because even seemingly good people have the potential to do hideous things.'
How true that is for today in our society and it what is currently happening in Europe. We can learn alot from history, we just don't seem to be doing so.
A WWII novel about Jewish refugees to England. Which was something that I knew nothing about. You learn something new every day. I'm not going to live this one had me crying at times.
Absolutely fantastic and unique! The way the author mixes the fiction and nonfiction by footnotes at the end of the chapter instead of an author’s note at the end of the book gives the reader a unique blend of what happened in the story and what really happened and keeps reader enthralled,
British sisters Ida and Louise Cook use their love of opera as means to travel back and from between Germany and England while saving the lives of Jewish people.
Lately, it seems like every time I read historical fiction, I learn something new. This book was so different. I had no idea these two women existed and I was completely unaware of their bravery. Also, while I knew London got hit hard during this war, I found myself really saddened by just how hard. I wasn’t aware how many civilians lost their lives. I also didn’t know that Hitler actually did declare war on the United States and looked forward to taking her down. So this book was quite an education.
What worked really well for me:
This book was very well researched. From opera to historical facts, research poured into every page. Footnotes were included at the bottom to give resources from where information came from.
There was a lot of emotion in this story. There wasn’t one character that didn’t make me feel something.
The story itself was brave and bravely told. It kept a good pace but the story itself kept you going, wanting to know what was next and who was saved. And who didn’t make it.
What didn’t work for me:
The ending seemed a little abrupt. Although, that could have been me because I really wanted to know so much more about these ladies.
If you don’t know opera, there were some spots that got quite technical. I grew up on opera so I was able to fully appreciate those moments.
Out of all the historical fiction you may read, make this book one that you do.
This was a great story to read. I loved the storyline and the characters, definitely recommend this book!
Quite long, sweeping and very well done historical fiction, beautiful cover! Very much enjoyed this true account of the Cook sisters and their efforts during early WWII wartime.
The Opera Sisters is a riveting, first hand account of two remarkable women, Ida and Louise Cook, who single handedly saved 29 families from the atrocious slaughter of Adolf Hitler's Naziism. Their life story occurs in London, England beginning in the summer of 1934 when Ida was nearly 30 years old. Louise was her older sister. At the time, they lived with their parents and their two brothers Jim and Bill.
They loved opera and they loved the voice of Rosa Ponsell.e. They pinched pennies so that they could see her when she came to perform in London. Through meeting her they met Klauss and Viorica. These two were instrumental in putting them in touch with many, many people who were trying to escape Hitler's reign against the Jews. The Cooks used the guise of opera to travel to and from war torn Germany and other countries. They went out of their way to secure passage to London for the refugees they were able to save.
Ida was a romance novel author under the pen name of Mary Burchell, and Louise was a civil servant. Ida used her own money to assist in paying for several of the refugees keep. One of them, Maria, had a fiancee who escaped and ended up in Brazil. She and her mother, Irma, had tried to join him while he was in Switzerland, but we're thwarted. Ida and Louise were able to get them to London. There they were caught in a bombing and Irma died. Eight years later the Cook sisters were able to reunite Maria with her fiancee in Brazil where they married and had a child.
The sisters went through great peril and frustration to save these people. And they grieved the ones they were unable to get out. All but two people they assisted survived and led productive lives. The two that didn't make it were Georg. who was saved with his wife and daughter. He committed suicide. The other person was Irma, Maria's mother, who was a casualty of war.
The war ripped through several countries, including the US, and killed more than 2,000,000 Jews. The Holocaust was horrendous! I believe there were four men whom the Cooks were unable to save and ended up in concentration camps. Well, four ended up there but two of them got out and were transported to London.
Rosa Ponselle ended up moving to the United States. She got married and retired. The sisters vowed they would go to the US. They hoped to see her sing again. Speaking of which, when London was liberated, Ida and Louise had a sort of opera party, during which Rosa phoned them. Of course they were thrilled to hear from her and she sang while on the phone for all to hear. In the end of the book, which was at the end of the war, the Cook women were finally able to travel to the US to see Rosa and many of the people they'd saved and who ended up there.
There is no account of the sisters ever having married. Ida published 112 novels. Her first eight year's worth funded her and Louise's efforts. She died of cancer in 1986. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Thank you NetGalley for a glimpse into these incredible women's lives.
WW2 stories are always a go to for me. Each historical fiction book I read will forever enlighten my views and I discover new details I was never aware of. The Opera Sisters did not disappoint! Ida and Louise are two working class sisters who vow to help as many Jewish people as possible. They save every cent they can to visit the opera. The ladies travel back and forth to operas as much as they can. It is there that they meet some high powered big names. Though the writing was a bit wordy, and the opera scenes was very technical, the research was thorough and I felt as though I was living in the time period. The way the sisters rescued families was heartfelt and heroic. I had never heard of these sisters before, and I am so happy to have read about their heroism. I highly recommend!
Thank you to NetGalley, Marianne Monson and the publisher for the eARC.
This was a great book! I usually find it hard to get into adult fiction, but I enjoyed the writing style and found the story compelling enough to continue reading. I would recommend it to anyone who liked history.
POWERFUL! That is the one word I can use to describe Marianne Monson’s story of Ida and Louise; two twenty something year old sisters, through whose love of opera, began a long and arduous journey to lead 29 families, but many many more individuals out of Germany and German occupied lands during the lead up to WWII. Ida uses her own money and makes many loans that she thinks she will never be able to repay; she enlists friends, family and strangers through her talks with church groups and others to sponsor Jews trying to flee Germany beginning in the early 1930’s. The book follows them all through WWII and the liberation. Fascinating were the side stories and how the author wound these into this historical fiction novel. The descriptions of what Londoners and those all throughout England endured during the Blitzkrieg and beyond was amazing. The tremendous amount of research was astounding. I laughed, I cried as I followed the Cook sister’s and what they did sacrificing their own safety many times over to help those less fortunate. Their courage was a testament to all the English people.
This is one of the most concise, well-rounded, extremely well-researched WWII books I’ve read. I loved the opera spin and I really enjoyed learning about these two amazing sisters and all they accomplished. Highly recommend.
The Opera Sisters by Marianne Monson is based on the true story of Ida and Louise Cook, sisters living in south London with a shared love of Opera. The two save their money to buy records and attend performances throughout England and Europe and they become well known in the Opera community. At first glance, they are unlikely heroes but you come to learn that even with minimal means they were able to save 29 Jewish families from Nazi Germany, starting when Hitler seized power in the early 1930’s and began passing laws that restricted the rights of Jews in Germany. It was a great story to read and learning about the Cook sisters was fascinating.
Thank you to NetGalley, Shadow Mountain Publishing and the author for an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The subject of "The Opera Sisters" is fascinating: Two sisters in 1930s London manage to help more than two dozen persecuted Germans and Austrians escape being murdered by the Nazis. It's well researched too, with footnotes clarifying any slight variations from the truth and citing sources (as a lover of historical fiction who's often dismayed to find out how little history is in some novels, I really appreciated this). But I'm sad to say that the writing let down the story. I never really got a sense of what made the sisters, Ida in particular, so compelling and magnetic that they were able to not only become great friends with the opera stars they idolized but also persuade so many other Brits to aid their cause. Perhaps we'd be better off just reading the autobiography of Ida Cook—aka romance novelist Mary Burchell—instead.
Thank you, NetGalley and Shadow Mountain Publishing, for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
The Opera Sisters by Marianne Monson, is based on the true story, of two British sisters, Ida and Louise Cook. There was a phrase that kept going through my mind, while I was reading, "I'm only one person, how can I ever make a difference?"
Ida and Louise, two ordinary, opera loving sisters, didn't waste time, they went out of their way to help refugees. Ida a romance author donated her time, effort and money to the cause of helping Jews, to escape war torn Germany, even before the war started. Louise, a secretary, also, worked alongside Ida, to free families and individuals. The two sibling, made sure to save, not only Jews, but some of their possessions as well, from furs, to jewelry, they would wear it proudly across the border and put it in a secure place, so it could be returned later. I've read many books about World War II and about concentration camps. Bless these two sisters, for their efforts in helping, without any thought for their own safety.
This historical fiction book was a great storytelling and left me wanting more books by this author
Overall I would recommend this book to friends
Thank you NetGalley for arc !
The Opera Sisters by Marianne Monson
Publishing date: September 6, 2022 by Shadow Mountain Publishing
ARC - thank you, Shadow Mountain Publishing and Net Galley!
I enjoyed Marianne Monson's "Frontier Grit" immensely, so I was very pleased to be invited to accept an ARC of her newest book, "The Opera Sisters."
This is the all-too-real story of two ordinary working girls, sisters living with their parents in WW II era London. Prior to the outbreak of the war, their shared pastime was attending opera performances. It was in the milieu of the opera that they formed relationships with a few performers who led them to understand what was going on in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. Author Monson expertly details the sisters' entree to the world of saving people from concentration camps and certain death.
The story continues from the beginning of the sisters' decision to take on responsibility for helping their fellow human beings to long after the war when they finally are able to make their coveted trip to America. Upon arriving in their hotel suite, they were greeted with evidence of the gratitude and love of the 29 families they personally helped save from the Holocaust.
In the middle of the story, we learn how these two remarkably unremarkable women were able to help all these people and how they literally put their own lives on the line, making "opera trips" to Nazi Germany in order to do so. They were aided by Ida's earnings from her romance novels, but also by dozens of ordinary British citizens of modest means who heard of their work and offered to "guarantee" a refugee. No rich aristocrats or members of the wealthy class were involved - it was all the work of ordinary people who decided to do something to fight evil. No one asked about the religion or ethnicity of the refugee - they just wanted to help. There are also detailed descriptions of London during the Blitz, and how everyone suffered, sheltering in the underground at night, getting little sleep because of the carpet bombing and going out in the morning to find their homes and their entire neighborhoods replaced by piles of smoking rubble.
In addition to the story being written a bit like a thriller, the author's footnotes offer supporting details and evidence which serve to clarify just how dangerous this activity was. She also footnotes various persons and situations that she abbreviated in order to keep the book "tighter." Nothing is exaggerated. Nothing is untrue. Some people and situations were merely rearranged. Her footnotes also offer poignant details about the kinder (child) transports, the voyage of the St. Louis (the ship full of Jews escaping Hitler's rule who were turned away from every country including the USA, only to go back to Germany), and some other "red flag" episodes that should have clued in the world to what was really going on in Germany.
I see this book as a testament to what ordinary people can do. It reminds us that during evil times, people will and do step up to help. It is not only the military forces that win wars, but the common citizen, never recognized by the writers of history who just keep going, doing what they can to help others along the way despite their own monumental losses. The people who refuse to give up despite loss of their spouses, their children, their homes, their neighborhoods.
This accounting of the heroism of Louise and Ida Cook prior to and during the Second World War is definitely a story that needs to be told. There were so very many heroes during that horrible time who have gone unrecognized simply due to the immensity of the war and the vastness of the need for help. The Cook sisters’ love of opera provided a unique opportunity which they took full advantage of.
I appreciate the efforts of the author, Marianne Monson, to bring these heroines to our attention and I loved reading the story.
There seemed to be great confusion in Monson’s mind as to whether the story should be a novel or a non-fiction so she addressed this literary contradiction by the use of copious footnotes, explaining just about everything, throughout the novel. For me, the footnotes were quite distracting. It was bad enough to have explanatory notes about what was actually happening in the war, but it was most distracting to have notes telling that what she had written was not the way it happened, but she needed to write it that way for the flow of the novel. Then she would go on to tell how the scene actually happened. Or in another case, the people in the novel weren’t the actual people in reality, etc.
With some serious editing I think this could be a first class novel of heroism in WWII … OR … a first class non-fiction about heroism in WWII.
I’m most appreciative to NetGalley and to the publisher, Shadow Mountain Publishing, for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I hope many people will read it and learn from it.
The spectacular cover first caught my eye. I was then taken in by the story, rich history, stunning backdrops, and how the author brought history to life through two extraordinary sisters I instantly cared for and connected with. These sisters were courageous, as they faced their fears, risked their lives to give hope to hopeless Jews desperate to evade the barbaric torture by the Nazi’s. The story opens with rumors of a pending war and then concludes with the end of the war, staying with the sisters, their friends, and the people they helped all the way through.
To be honest, I was a little intimidated by the cast of characters before the novel began. I liked how the story was broken into three parts and that list was insightful. But my interest was piqued when I read the caption before the first page, “Louise and Ida Cook have derived more from living than anyone I know.” Rosa Ponselle, so true. Even in the midst of turmoil these two ladies did what it took to save money to go to the Opera House. They took great joy in these performances. Little did these two sisters know that their love of opera would be a way for them to help hundreds of people escape Germany.
I liked how this author inserted the author notes right into the chapter. I didn’t have to wait until the end of the book to learn what was real and what wasn’t. She also included website addresses you could go to and get the complete information.
As with every WWII story I’ve read, I learn something new. In this story, I was blown away by these sisters’ zest for life and what they did to help strangers. I was fascinated by their love of Opera and all that went on in the music world at that time. This story takes place as Hitler is trying to collect the people, he wanted to surround himself with and discard the rest. While these sisters were traveling from performance to performance, they got a wider view of the bigger picture in Hitler’s real plan. So, did I. I loved how the author did that. I look forward to reading more books by this author.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I requested and received a copy of this book by the publisher/NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have 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 Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”
Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
The Book Club Network blog https://psalm516.blogspot.com/
This book was beautiful, exciting, traumatic and well described the monstrosities of the time! The bravery these women showed during WWII was incredible! I loved this whole book! I hope you will take the time to read it!
I love romance and wanted to include this beautiful quote from Ida herself!
“Romance is the quality which gives an air of probability to our dearest wishes . . . people often say life isn’t like that, but life is often exactly like that. Illusions and dreams often do come true.” Ida Cook
The Opera Sisters is a riveting historical fiction novel based on the true story of Ida and Louise Cook, two British working-class sisters, who helped Jews escape Germany during WWII and the events leading up to it. The pace of the story keeps the reader engaged as events unfold and the protagonists' awareness of and concern for the plight of Jews in Germany evolve. The portrayal of their courage and compassion is inspiring to witness. Marianne Monson presents a thoroughly researched account of the lives of the sisters and effectively ties together fact and fiction, providing greater depth to the story. Through rich detail and descriptive imagery, Monson creatively interlaces historical events alongside the plot, presenting a broader context amid the lives of the characters. Monson also includes footnotes and websites for readers who want to delve deeper into primary sources and historical archives.
Readers of historical fiction in general and the WWII era specifically will enjoy this engaging novel.
Thank you NetGalley and Shadow Mountain Publishing for the opportunity to read this ARC and in return I am submitting my unbiased review.
My favorite time period is World War II, and I’m drawn to books set then. I especially love it when the stories are based on real events. I’d never heard of the Cook sisters, but I will be searching out more information about them. This story was gorgeous and one that I’ll revisit.
Ida and Louise Cook were remarkable women. I loved learning about their story and focus to save "the one." The sisters worked tirelessly and impacted the lives of many people This book turned facts and figures into real people with real-life stories. I'd never heard of the opera singers mentioned in the book, and after I finished reading the it, I looked up the stars up on the Internet and listened to some of their recordings. The description of the bombing of London during the 8th-month Blitz brought that to life. My knowledge of WWII will forever be better because of this book.
The Opera Sisters is an engrossing story of two sisters set in the background of war and recession. Additionally the book also narrated the power of music to nurture love, to pave the way for healing, and redemption. Another notable work of historial fiction at its best.
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book in return for an honest review.
This historical novel is based on the true story of the Cook sisters, opera lovers who traveled from London to Nazi Germany and smuggled out jewels and furs for those hoping to find a way to England. Two ordinary, unassuming working-class women, Ida and Louise save their money to buy opera tickets. Serendipitously the sisters are introduced to fellow opera lovers, performers and conductors. Through these relationships, the sisters are asked to smuggle valuables out of Germany for those seeking refuge in England, or anywhere but Germany. Quite boldly, the sisters wear the goods by hiding them in plain sight, and keeping them safe until they are reunited with their owners. After travel to continental Europe is halted, the sisters continue to help refugees by obtaining sponsorships and employment. By the end of the war, the sisters were able to help 29 Jewish families escape from Nazi Germany.
My rating is only 3 stars because I had such mixed feelings about the writing. My rating is in no way related to the brave and caring sisters. While I realize it was an historical novel, I felt that some things were changed or embellished without any logical reason. For instance, the speech given by Winston Churchill on Christmas Eve of 1941 is moved to 1940. There is a chapter of the sisters reuniting with one of their dear friends after the war, however, it was a story of someone else, who the author indicates isn’t mentioned in the book. There is a story of Theo, a Polish teen-ager the sisters helped, but we learn in the footnotes this is the story of another Theo, who was not helped by the sisters. However, it does include a lot of historical facts, appears to be well-researched and I did learn some new things. If you care to chill yourself to the bone, watch the short film A Night at the Garden, https://anightatthegarden.com.
Really nice piece of historical fiction! Probably my favorite piece of historical fiction all year.
The Opera Sisters is a fictionalized story of the real-life Cook sisters, opera aficionados, who meet and rub elbows with some of the greatest opera stars of their time, while aiding and assisting refugees from Nazi Germany.
The author allows us to follow along as the Cook sisters travel to and from areas in Europe for Opera performances and to meet with contacts as they assisted desperate persons to leave Germany. The author intersperses wonderful descriptions of opera between dramatic near misses and joyful reunions. It's really a nice bit of balance throughout the novel. The book was inspiring and hopeful without becoming maudlin- which is a feat in itself when writing about WWII is involved.
Personally, I really did enjoy this book. It was better researched than many works of historical fiction, and really focused on events that related to the sisters and their activity. (in other words, no wild meetings with Hitler that did not occur etc)I was a bit frustrated with the pulling of a Churchill speech that didn't fit into a totally different year/time to suit the story, but I think most readers will overlook that easily. This would be an excellent book for young readers or younger book clubs- there is very little to offend anyone through out the book and it does end on a realistic but positive not.
As a human with a deep appreciation for WWII historical fiction done well, The Opera Sisters takes it to a new level. This beautiful tale of bravery and harrowing/daring feats to save lives is a new take on WWII fiction that I couldn't put down. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC!
Well researched book but I found it had to get into and rather boring. Having never of the sisters, I was interested to find out about their role during the Holocaust. The sisters seemed very shallow to have successfully helped the Jews. Mixed feelings about this book.
Touching and powerful.
Many thanks to Shadow Mountain Publishing and to NetGalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.
One of the most interesting books of unsung heroes that I"ve read in a long time! The Opera Sisters tells the story of two sisters in the UK and their efforts to save Jews in Germany.
Ida and Louise Cook are avid opera lovers. They save every penny they make from their jobs to see operas in the UK, and Europe. A chance meeting on one of those trips leads them to helping people leave their country and find new lives in England. This is not easy; England wasn't very open to taking these refugees, public sentiment did not yet understand the dire peril these folks were in, and the bureaucratic hurdles were huge. In addition, the personal risk to Ida and Louise was quite substantial. Yet these two women saved many lives and most people have never heard of them. That needs to change; everyone needs to read this book!
Well researched, well written, historically accurate and with clear attribution to historical sources, The Opera Sisters is a tribute to the amazing work of these two women and the many others who helped them help others.
The Opera Sisters
By: Marianne Monson
Review Score: 4 Stars
Five Key Feels
-Ida and Louise Cook are amazing women.
-Monson did such an amazing job of building the tension in this book.
-It was interesting to see what was happening in Germany and Austria from the eyes of Brits.
-I learned so much about Opera from this book as well.
-I was so invested in every character that was introduced, holding my breath to find out if they had made it.
The Opera Sisters was kindly provided as an ARC by Netgalley and Shadow Mountain Publishing. Thank you for allowing me to read this wonderful book!
Release Date: 9/6/22
The Opera Sisters is an incredible story about Ida and Louise Cook, two women who help families leave mainland Europe for Britain as the Nazis overrun country after country. This is based on a true story, which I did not know! Monson did such an amazing job of weaving these characters together, and showing how hard it was to leave Europe as a Jewish person as World War Two started to build. I also loved learning about Ida’s book writing, and how she uses that money to help anyone she can.
Before this book, I really did not know much about the Opera, or really considered myself a fan. Watching the Opera through the Cook sister’s eyes, and how they used their love of Opera as a way to move about, really added to how much I enjoyed this book.
The Opera Sisters is an incredible read about two incredible women. I highly recommend it.
#bookstagram #books #readingnow #boogiereadsbooks #fivekeyfeels #audiobooks #audiobook #historicalfiction #arcreview #netgalley #shadowmountainpub #theoperasisters #mariannemonson #worldwar2
Thank you to Net Galley and Shadow Mountain Publishing. The opinions expressed are my own.
This is the story of the Cook sisters, who risked their lives to smuggle valuables out of Nazi Germany in the 1930's. I found their story to be very interesting and I admire their courage. What I did not like what the short history lessons throughout the story. It almost seemed like two books. I think the book would have been better if the author had combined them and made the history part of the Cook sister's story. I had never heard of the Cook sisters before I read this story. I am glad I had the chance to learn about them and the risks they took during war time. I would recommend this book to all readers that like historical fiction!
Ida and Louisa have a very sedate life. One works as a government clerk, and Ida loves to write, often scribbling down snippets and notes of ideas for stories. Their love for opera sees them scrimping and saving to buy opera tickets and then daringly actually going to opera houses in Europe to see their stars perform. During the course of these visits they are befriended by the celebrities themselves who are charmed by the simplicity of the sisters.
When Austria and subsequently Poland followed by France are overswept by the Nazis, Ida and Louise set up a system of trying to help Jews to get out of Europe by a system of sponsorship. To this end during their frequent visits to Europe, they take with them the jewels and furs of the Jews who have managed to save them as a guarantee of their stays in London and elsewhere. The system works despite Ida and Louisa's total lack of training in this kind of work - work they do with their entire hearts and minds overcoming great odds and personal dangers to get as many people as they could out of these countries.
The novel is based on a true story and links and snippets as to actual events are highlighted at the end of the chapters but the appeal of the story is the simple, straightforward lifestyle of two very middle class sisters who stepped out of their comfort zone to help people who were unknown to them. An inspiring read of two very down to earth heroines.
How have I never heard of these sisters before ? These are important historical figures and I wish there was more information out there about them! I’m so glad I chose to read this book and learned about them. Such an interesting topic. Worth the read! Well researched and great read. Thank you NetGalley!
The Opera Sisters is an achingly gorgeous book based on true events and real-life British sisters Ida and Louise Cook whose passion for the opera enabled them to become unsung heroines in Nazi Germany during WWII. Ida wrote romance novels and Louise was a secretary. Both scrimped and saved to earn money to attend luxurious operas and even sewed suitable outfits. Through interesting ways they got to know those in the opera industry. Consequently, in addition to making lasting friends such as opera singer Rosa Ponselle, they were approached to escort Jews from Germany to England. The story describes the opera scene, harrowing escapes and horrors of war such as Kristallnacht. Hitler's rise to power, eccentric Picasso and Chamberlain are also mentioned.
My favourite aspect is the willingness of the sisters to do whatever they could to help Jews during the Holocaust at great personal risk. As an opera fan who has seen some of the most stunning opera houses in Europe I was besotted by their phenomenal story. But you needn't be an opera fan to enjoy it. Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction and Nonfiction readers alike ought to pick up this book.
A few historic events were changed by the author to suit the story but the depth of inspiration and beauty enabled me to overlook that. I appreciate the footnotes and was prompted to do further reading about these extraordinary women..
My sincere thank you to Shadow Mountain Publishing and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this brilliant book. It really touched my heart.
Sisters Louise and Ida Cook are infatuated with opera. This obsession influences career choices and opens up their circle of influence and as a result, they are asked to partake in a dangerous mission by new and desperate friends.
The content and research were intriguing but the presentation fell flat for me. I’m not sure what the aim was in presenting the narrative in different formats, but it ruined the flow for me. While I am in awe of the risk these two ordinary women took, I failed to connect to them because the story didn’t come alive for me. I am disappointed that a fresh look at WW2 fiction wasn’t as enjoyable for me as I was hoping it would be. Despite my disappointment, I appreciated the author’s exploration of moral courage in the face of risk and of ordinary people standing up and choosing to help another. Just because I didn’t love the author’s choice of presentation, doesn’t mean that you won’t like it.
I was gifted this advance copy by Shadow Mountain Publishing and NetGalley and was under no obligation to provide a review.
The Opera Sisters read more like a series of vignettes than a novel. The reader got glimpses into the lives of the Cook sisters during World War II along with the scattered stories of others around them. Complete with enough footnotes to write a research paper with the attention to detail, though impressive, only served to to muddle the story rather than enhance it in my opinion. I found the shifting perspectives and extensive citations distracting and would have preferred either a fictionalized account of their lives or a biography. What I got was something in between.
I have been trying to read more historical fiction and the books that I have read, I ended up really enjoying. However sometimes it is hit or miss. I really wanted to enjoy this book but I had a harder time with it. The Opera Sisters is a historical fiction that speaks of two sisters who helped smuggle valuables out of Germany to help finance Jews during World War II.
I would still recommend this book, but it is definitely one for those who like thought provoking historical reads. The formatting was a bit hard for me to follow, especially because it kept skipping between scenes. I was really excited for this book because it looked fascinating but unfortunately it is just not for me.
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher through Netgalley. All views expressed are only my honest opinion, a positive review was not required.
The Opera Sisters
by Marianne Monson
The Opera Sisters is based on the true story of Ida and Louise Cook both ordinary working girls in pre-WWII London. Ida is a dreamer who later becomes a talented romance novelist and Louise, her salwart companion, is a copy typist. Left “spinstered” by WWI, they are comforted by music, evenings spent listening to and discussing records of their favorite performances as well as the occasional night at the opera. Over time they are befriended by fellow opera lovers as well as the performers. On one of their trips to a German opera house, the sisters’ help is enlisted to escort Jewish members of the opera community out of Germany into England. While the rest of the world, remains asleep to the truth of the coming dangers, the sisters are given a front row seat. They were drawn into the world of opera for its beauty and majesty, but soon find themselves pitched into the dark world that Germany and Austria are becoming under the Third Reich. Time and again, Ida and Louise risk their lives as they smuggle jelwery, furs and papers needed to secure the refugees’ safe passage into England. The Cook sisters offered hope and showed unusual courage at a time in history when many did not want to get involved. It is the story of the heroism of ordinary people who were able to make a difference during extraordinary times.
Monson’s novel is very well researched and references many primary and secondary sources used to create the content of the novel. While she fictionalizes part of the narrative to keep it flowing and cohesive, she clearly indicates these details in her footnotes. If you’re a fan of footnotes and like your historical fiction annotated, then this book is for you. I have to admit that at first the notes disrupted the flow of the story for me, but I quickly learned to enjoy the additional information provided. While there have been more WWII novels written than one can easily count, it is always a joy to read stories that remind us that there is always light to be found in dark times.
Coming soon - Pub date 06 Sept 2022! My thanks to @NetGalley and @ShadowMoutainPublishing for the privilege of reading this digital ARC.
I enjoy learning more about WWII this novel is based on the true story of Ida and Louise know as the Cook sisters. They helped to find ways for Jews and other refugees to escape to freedom in the United Kingdom. This book was full of a lot of information and because of that wasn't as entertaining at times but still full of so many interesting stories you wouldn't want to miss out on it. I love that it showed it was very well researched and story is based on real life events.
Wow! What a lovely real life Historical fiction novel. In the 1900's the British Cook sisters, Ida and Louise Cook travelled continuously to Austria and Germany because of their passion for Opera and Music. As a result, they met and followed many of the prominent opera singers of the early to mid-20th century and developed friendships with them, including Maria Callas, Amelita Galli-Curci, Rosa Ponselle, Ezio Pinza, Elisabeth Rethberg, director Clemens Krauss, and soprano Viorica Ursuleac. It was at this period of thier life, when they helped refugees flee Nazi Germany and other nations under their influence, which was made possible by their connection with Krauss and Ursuleac.
The extent to which they took their devotion to Galli-voice Curci's was one event that revealed a spirit that would serve them well in the future. After hearing her perform a platform concert in the Albert Hall—her first British appearance—and learning the heartbreaking news that she sang opera only in New York, Ida became determined that they should travel there within the next five years to hear her. Will Louise be there? 'Rather!' she exclaimed. The great Galli-Curci waved to them from the audience and then invited them to her Fifth Avenue apartment. They were ecstatic. "Oh Rapture! Rapture! Rapture! Galli-Curci exceeds our expectations."
During their journeys, Ida and Louise smuggled out items belonging to refugees, ranging from coats to jewelry. The sisters would typically arrive in the country dressed plainly with few accessories, but they would return to London covered in furs and jewels that they claimed were their own. The Cooks also collaborated with others in England to secure safe passage for those who were being persecuted.
The sisters' willingness to assist became known in Jewish communities, and their network expanded to include people in Berlin, Munich, and Frankfurt. Hundreds of letters begging for help from strangers began to arrive at the British Refugee Headquarters, addressed simply to 'Ida and Louise.' The sisters felt an increasing sense of urgency to complete their mission. They discovered, for example, that in order to persuade others—friends and family, and, eventually, strangers—to provide a financial guarantee, they needed to persuade them that they wouldn't necessarily spend the money.
Their love of opera served as an excellent cover for their illicit activities. The authorities saw them as crazy but harmless opera buffs. Cook's writing career took off just as their rescue efforts began, and the majority of her new-found wealth was donated to the rescue efforts. Ida and Louise Cook were named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem and are credited with assisting 29 Jews in fleeing Germany and Austria.
Marianne Monsoon has richly researched the Holocaust era of Hitler making this novel remarkable for Historical fiction fans to read. A story of courage, compassion, strength, friendship and sacrifice. I just reviewed the Opera Sisters By Marianne Monsoon, Thanks to NetGalley and Shadow Mountain Publisher for an advance copy for my honest review.
historical-fiction, historical-figures, historical-places-events, historical-research, historical-setting, history-and-culture, holocaust, WW2, romance-writer, family, family-dynamics, fanatic about opera, bravery, British, rescue, opera-stars*****
The people are real, the history is real, the conversations are likely, the research is well documented, and the storytelling is very fine, indeed. I remembered reading about the sisters over a year ago and dug into my Goodreads pile to find it. This book is grand storytelling for an important piece of history and two very remarkable women. I really enjoyed this one!
"Ida Cook (1904 to 1986) was a British campaigner for Jewish refugees and a romance novelist as Mary Burchell. Ida Cook and her sister Mary Louise Cook (1901–1991) rescued Jews from the Nazis during the 1930s. The sisters helped 29 people escape, funded mainly by Ida's writing. In 1965, the Cook sisters were honoured as Righteous among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority in Israel. Between 1936 and 1985, Ida Cook wrote 112 romance novels as Mary Burchell in 1950 she wrote her autobiography, We Followed Our Stars," and The Bravest Voices: The Extraordinary Heroism of Sisters Ida and Louise Cook During the Nazi Era by Ida Cook was published in 2021.
I requested and received an e-book copy from Shadow Mountain Publishing via NetGalley. Thank you!
This is one of my favorite genres to read, but I struggled with this one. I enjoyed the fact that it's based on a true story. The heroes from that time, such as the Cook sisters, certainly need to be recognized and remembered. At times, it was hard to tell if this was a fiction book or if it was supposed to be nonfiction. There are numerous footnotes throughout the entire story, which was a bit unusual (and more than a bit distracting). It really pulled me out of the storyline. They may have worked better in the author's note, or something similar, instead. Or perhaps it should've been done as a nonfiction piece. I did like the cover, but the pace was just too slow, and the numerous opera references could be off-putting to some readers. Some of the minor issues could've been addressed with a tighter edit.
The Opera Sisters by Marianne Monson is a story of love, war, and Nazi Persecution of the Jews in Germany and Austria. It's wonderfully researched and written with compassion and empathy for the time.
The story is based on the Cook sisters, Ida Cook was a campaigner for the Jews and an author using the name Mary Purcell. She and her sister Mary Louise was instrumental in aiding 29 Jews to escape the persecution of Jews in Austria and Germany mostly after Kristallnacht.
They both loved opera so they were able to obtain tickets to concerts performed in Germany. These trips to the operas were coverups for what they were really up to. While there in Germany, it became word of mouth about what they could do to help these people that had had everything taken from them. They would take their jewelry and other valuable items back to England with them and keep them for the people. Then they were able to smuggle the people back to England. The only way that they were able to do this is recruit people in England to sponsor the Jews.
In a three-year period, they were able to save 29, men women, and children. Austrian conductor Clemens Krauss and his wife, soprano Viorica Ursuleac originally told them about the plight of the Jews. Ida as an author was able to support the effort with the money she made from the novels.
They had rented a small flat in England for some of these refugees that had nowhere else to go. After the war, the sisters continued their efforts to save as many people as they could from the nastiness that was the Nazis.
I love this book so much, cheered for the sisters and their endeavors, not a fan of opera but I found it very interesting that they were able to use this ruse to free people right under the Nazi guard's noses.
Impeccable research went into this story and it shows. I was the first that I had heard of the Cook sisters and I am glad I read this book. It will stay in my mind for a long time to come.
I give the book 5 stars.
Stories such as this are not purely fictional, there is always an element of truth. This book is about the two Cook sisters who helped many Jewish people escape Germany as possible. The fact is that this novel is fictional yet based on a true story. The story about the actual events is well researched and well written. As a fan of Historical fiction, you learn something new every time you pick up a novel that takes place in WWI and WWII. The authors, such as Ms. Monson, helps you understand the history and delves deeper than what you may have learned in school. Highly recommended.
World War II books for me are in a genre all their own. I always go into them with hesitancy because the events are so incredibly heartbreaking. What drew me to The Opera Sisters by Marianne Monson was the idea of these two sisters putting aside their fears, safety and using ingenuity through uncommon avenues to help so many others.
I love that this was based on a true story and that so many of the historical aspects were well documented throughout the text. It did take me until about 20% to really get a feel for the storyline as the beginning jumps around quite a bit setting up for the later events. After reading this book in it's entirety I really appreciated the set up-so go into this book with that in mind! I think it will help with the experience of this book.
This author was able to condense the entire timeline of WWII throughout the book that made it history rich. There are so many details included that this book felt personal and intimate. Have your tissues handy and know this book will hit you at such a deep level.
If you have read and enjoyed books like A Slow March of Light by Heather B Moore or A Brilliant Night of Stars and Ice by Rebecca Connolly I think you would really enjoy this one. Content-wise this one is a bit heavier. There is talk of murders, persecution and suicides in this book. There was nothing overly graphic-just that they were happening all across Europe and honestly, if you've read a history book, nothing should come as a surprise but it will impact you emotionally and want to note it.
If you're in the mood for a life changing book, I recommend this one!
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the copy. All thoughts in this review are my own.
I seem to be reading a lot of books lately that are set in the time of World War II. Almost all of them have been centered on the people who were being persecuted—the horrible things that they had to endure and the suffering they went through to survive—with some of them not living though it all.
The Opera Sisters tells the same story of the war but from a different perspective. This is the story of two sisters who came to the aid of those very same people who were being persecuted and were suffering. Based on true events, sisters Ida and Louise Cook were able to get a lot of people out of dangerous situations and to safety. Under the guise of the opera, they built up a network of friends and connections who helped them with their mission of saving people.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I learned so much about the world of opera but I was also able to see another side to a terrible time in our world. There really were a lot of good people helping so many in need. Like I said, this is a different spin to the usual WWII story so if you like historical fiction of that time period, you will definitely want to read this one. I highly recommend The Opera Sisters.
This book is so powerful. I love reading books about world war 2. This story follows two sisters who realize their love for Opera. However, as time goes on they realized that there are ways they can help Jewish families escape Germany and later other places. These sisters relationship is beautiful. This may be one of my new all time favorites. I love that this book is a collection of stories about so many Jewish families. After each chapter there were notes about the previous chapter. I really liked the layout because sometimes author notes at the end of books can be hard to decipher. However this gives facts and adjustments to dates or events right after you have read it. This book is so rich in historical facts that make you want to fight for justice. Opera sisters is very deeply researched which makes it all the more fascinating that these stories are based on true stories. Also, love the theme of this story that, every little thing that someone can do to help a cause is worth doing and can help in a major way.
ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
One brave woman can make a huge difference.
More people need to know this amazing true story. Ida and her older sister Louise use attendance at various operas in Germany as a cover for helping Jewish people in danger escape the country. They’re just ordinary women, without wealth or power, but determined to do all they can. Incredibly, Ida published 112 romance novels under the pseudonym Mary Burchell to provide for the people she rescued. The book starts in Munich in 1923 and ends in America in 1947. A lot of facts and real people are introduced throughout the many very short chapters, along with detailed notes at the end. Their successful efforts to rescue strangers in trouble are inspiring despite the sad and tragic details. It is unbelievable the way people treated other people, and not just those in power. Even ordinary good people turned against their long-time neighbors and friends.
This is a cross between historical fiction and well written nonfiction. The story of Ida and Louise is divided up with stories of the many people they rescue and historical facts and details about WWII. The chapters skip from story to story and background info. If read like just a novel it is choppy and hard to get into, but if read like more of a history book it is captivating and five solid stars. Thanks to Shadow Mountain Publishing and NetGalley for an ARC to use for my review.
I enjoyed this book waaaay more than I was expecting. It started off a little dry with a lot of information that was like "yea, doesn't everyone know this?", but as that information continued throughout the book, it became my favorite part. Not even touching the story of Ida and Louise, just the background information that was provided about Hitler and the leadup to WWII was some of the most comprehensive I've ever read, fiction or non-fiction. And I read a lot of WWII historical fiction and non-fiction. It was nice that this information was given alongside Ida and Luise's timeline so you got a full picture of what was happening across Europe, not just the parts that the Cooks were aware of.
That's not to say that I didn't love the Cooks' timeline. I don't really know much about Opera, but that doesn't stop you from appreciating their love of. I also wonder what it was like to be openly working with the Nazi's, but to be secretly working with the resistance/underground. It must have been terrible to be seen as a collaborator by your friends and neighbors without being able to defend yourself. I liked that we got a small glimpse of that through a couple of characters. I'm glad the Cook sisters will have their story told for current and future generations. I hope they both died knowing the impact they had on the people they saved and I hope Ida was able to forgive herself for not savings everyone.
If it's not clear from my review, I would highly recommend this book for lovers of WWII historical fiction or anyone wanting to dip their toes in the genre!
Louise and Ida Cook live in London. They are both enamored with Opera. Louise works for civil service and Ida writes novels. They live with their parents to save money to buy a gramophone as they love music.
Eventually they travel abroad to follow their favorite opera stars and make friends with many. With Hitler rising in power they see how the Jewish people are treated and the many changes.
Since they have been traveling for awhile they decide to travel to Germany to help people undercover. At the Berlin Opera house they are approached to help save some of the Jewish peoples valuables including furs and jewels.
Conductors Clemons Krauss and Bruno Walter want to host a Festival in Salzburg and they look to the Cook sisters for help. The story evolves with everything they endured to help people.
This novel is based on the real life Cook sisters “who smuggled out valuables out of Germany to finance a daring operation to help Jews find a new home in England.”
I had never heard of the Cook sisters and found this fascinating.
Based on the real story of two opera loving sisters, who work within the British immigration system to save the lives of hundreds of people before WWII broke out in Europe. The book has an interesting layout with the story interspersed with chapters just about history to help give perspective on what’s going on as the sisters work to save Jews and more from being killed or sent to concentration camps. There are some stories that are hard to read because of the horrible things done to the people as Hitler comes into power.
Book review: The Opera Sisters by Marianne Monson
“I hope you know, my dear, that you have an astounding talent for love”
This was such an incredibly written book. Ida and Louise had such a close sister relationship and they both weren’t afraid to work hard and sacrifice to get what they want. I love how the lives in this book weave together. I thought the despair was written so well I could feel it in my heart as the sisters hearts broke for those they could save! I also felt the sense of unity and the attempts to find joy even through the suffering.
As a lover of history I appreciated the footnotes that expanded and added to the history. I also loved all the secrets and sneaking around right under hitler’s nose! Every time I read a book about WW2 I learn more and more. This was such a well researched and put together book!
My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
This was such an inspiring story! Humans are incredible. I love stories of ordinary people showing such bravery to help complete strangers. Ida and Louise's story is one that should be heard. If you are a fan of WWII novels, this is a great pick! I loved the chapters with background information- it helped give context to what the sisters did, and what was happening in the war. I learned so many details of the war that I'd never heard before. I love that it is all based on true stories. It was a great read!
I love the fact that this book is based on real people! When you read a book and love the characters, it's definitely cool that they were real people! It was really inspiring to read about their work. The format took some getting used to, as there were lots of short passages ( some about the people Ida and Louise worked with or those they helped, some showing the events happening around the world as war approached, etc.), that initially seemed jarring to me. I did find the information in those short passages very interesting, but it broke up the flow of the main story somewhat. Overall, a very interesting story about a couple of amazing women!
I read an ARC provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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.
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
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.
This book also reviewed at https://biblioquacious.blogspot.com/2022/09/im-back-with-great-wwii-novel-based-on.html
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.
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.
A fascinating look into such a dark time in history. This was so well written and had me from the very beginning.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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