[A Sparrow in Terezin]: A Review

Hi guys. I hope you all had a great weekend and that your football team won (unlike mine 😦 ). It was a sad night on Saturday. But we also bought a new car this weekend so it wasn’t all bad!

I am so excited to review A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron today. This book has been officially on my TBR since I finished her novel The Butterfly and the Violinwhich is a beautifully captivating story that you should also read! I have fallen in love with the way Kristy builds moving stories out of artful moments in history. She calls herself a vintage storyteller, and I couldn’t agree more!

A Sparrow in Terezin quickly became one of my favorite books read this year and one of my favorite WWII novels ever. When I first finished this book, I felt emotionally full. My heart was weeping and aching and smiling.

Initial thoughts:

  • I love this book. I need to own this book.
  • I loved both perspectives from the first page. I didn’t expect to get more of Sera’s story, and I loved getting a glimpse into her life after the first novel.
  • One of my favorite characters in this book is Dane. I had never thought about the possibility of someone like him. He is surrounded by people who are evil. But he finds ways to rise above it. His character and sacrifice are beautiful.
  • This novel offers a full range of emotions–hope, love, and compassion in stark contrast to fear, despair, and heartache.
  • I want more novels in the Hidden Masterpiece collection. I might even say I need them. 😉 They offer such gorgeous perspectives on the ways God and art can bring happiness in dark times. I always finish them feeling so inspired and determined to do something good in the world.

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A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron follows the dual stories of Sera James–a present day art gallery owner and soon to be Mrs. William Hanover, and Kaja Makovsky–a half Jewish native of Prague who will risk everything to return to save her parents from the Nazi occupied city. Sera and her new husband face seemingly insurmountable legal problems that could result in 10 years in prison for William. Kaja will risk everything including her life and romantic future with the gallant and mysterious Brit Liam Marshall to try to get her parents out of war torn Prague. But things do not go as planned. Kaja finds herself in a Jewish ghetto as the teacher for young children. And Sera finds herself with more questions than answers about her new husband’s past. These stories cross in the character of Sophie–a Jewish girl who was saved by Kaja and will save Sera once again.

I actually enjoyed Sera’s journey more in this book than in the previous novel. I like that we get to see what happens to her after her big search for the painting of Adele. We get to see her relationship with William blossom and falter. We get to see her connect with Sophie even more. And we get to see her scared, stubborn, happy, and indecisive. She feels real to me. She has moments in this book that are applaudable and that make me want to slap some sense into her. I easily found myself rooting for her and eagerly awaiting what would happen with the trial and with her marriage.

But as much as I enjoyed Sera’s story, I think I enjoyed Kaja’s even more. Kaja is such a neat character. She feels such an incredible sense of responsibility for her family and for justice. She wants to believe that people are good and will treat each other well. And yet, she falls for Liam Marshall (who I would have loved learn more about) and finds herself in the middle of the London Blitz and later a Jewish ghetto. She finds the good in a place where darkness seems to overcome any light. Her actions are always honorable and in defense of someone else. But she sees and experiences such difficult things. She nearly dies in a London bombing and then in the ghetto. What keeps her alive? I think it is her faith in God and her trust that there is good to be found in even the darkest circumstances. And those two things made me love her character and hope for her success in any circumstance.

Kristy writes in dual perspectives so beautifully. I think both points of view are well developed–making them both easy to get sucked into. I kept thinking I will finish at the end of a chapter, only to find a crazy cliff hanger that made me turn the page. But that was in a new perspective! This style kept me on my toes and invested in both stories. What was especially interesting about this book is that the stories don’t seem to connect for so long. I wasn’t sure where they would come together. This made the story all the more clever for me–waiting to explain the connection gave the story added suspense and excitement.

Sometimes when I read a book, I just think to myself “This paragraph (or page or chapter or entire book) is written so beautifully.” A Sparrow in Terezin is such a book. I found myself wanting to write down entire paragraphs so I can experience some of the beautiful language later. I think it is a mark of a particularly great book when I find myself enraptured by the language and the plot. This is especially true in a book like this, a book that successfully encapsulates the human spirit during the most trying times in life.

A few favorite lines:

“War meant everything. It could steal away today as well as tomorrow. It could take their beautiful city, and the souls in it, to hell and back without batting an eyelash.”

“Memories….they whisper in this room. Do you hear them? Listen.”

“Books create the ability to escape into a different world, and the children are desperate for that.”

A Sparrow in Terezin, pages 23, 200 & 279

I have long been a fan of WWII literature. But lately I especially appreciate WWII novels that give a different perspective on the war, that teach me something I didn’t know before. A Sparrow in Terezin does just that. I was instantly intrigued by the focus on the children’s art in Terezin and the large clock in Prague. Both were new ideas to me. I also really enjoyed the first part of Kaja’s story that takes place in London during the Blitz. I haven’t read many accounts or novels about the Blitz. Because of this book, I want to read more.  If I have any criticism of this book, it would be that we don’t get a lot of specific details about the Blitz and the British spy network. I was really curious to hear more about that!

Overall, the action in this book kept me turning pages quickly. There was so much going on in both time periods that I soon found myself at that point where I had to finish because I can’t move on with my life until I know how it ends. The ending is lovely and heartbreaking and beautiful (I keep using that word!) I so appreciated a happy ending after the conflict and suspense of the plot.

One of my favorite aspects of the Hidden Masterpieces novels are the beautiful themes and powerful messages that are presented through these stories. In this novel, these messages focus on thought-provoking ideas like the power of art creating goodness in the midst of evil, the ways an individual can preserve the legacy and life of children, the ways time can be manipulated, the powerful influence a single person has to do good, and the importance of love and trust in relationships. Most of all, I appreciate the way God and His divine role is weaved throughout this story.

Some of the most compelling quotes in this book come in connection with the old Prague clock tower and the title of this book. The connections between time, God, and sparrows are truly incredible. It took me a good portion of the book to understand the beautiful symbolism of the title. But that journey to understanding made the title all the more powerful for me.

 

“My father used to say that all of time is set to a clock–God’s clock. We’re given so much of it from sunrise to sunset each day. And it’s in God’s will that time continues to move. He watches over all of us, wherever we should go. . .and especially when fear overrides the feeling of safety.”

“Sparrows soar on high; they are light and agile. They fly through the clouds unafraid and travel where the skeletons could never go. That is strength on little wings. . . . They rain tiny blessings down on the Jews in Prague while we are asleep. They shine light in the darkness.”

“Peace. That’s what it feels like. God’s peace showering down on us. And it’s not because we haven’t seen storms. I think it’s because he gave us the strength to weather them–no matter what.”

A Sparrow in Terezin, pages 86, 190 & 337

Overall, a truly beautiful novel that everyone should read from WWII fiction fans to romance lovers to people who want to believe in the goodness of humanity. This book can touch everyone. I highly recommend it! And now I need to read The Ringmaster’s Wife 🙂

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What did you think of A Sparrow at Terezin?
Which WWII novel do I need to read next?

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7 thoughts on “[A Sparrow in Terezin]: A Review

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  4. I read The Butterfly and the Violin earlier this year! I thought it was absolutely gorgeous. I hope to get to this one soon too!

    “But lately I especially appreciate WWII novels that give a different perspective on the war, that teach me something I didn’t know before. A Sparrow in Terezin does just that.”

    This is my favorite thing in historical fiction! I love gaining new insight 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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