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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Imagine the Research!
The thought of the research necessary to write a novel like this is quite mind-blowing. Research of the details of the German and Russian eras covered, the musical background, the violin itself and its history, the details about conditions in Dachau. The author needs congratulating for all that alone. Yet on top of that she created a gripping tale that kept me up late...
Published 16 months ago by Tui Allen

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Would have been five stars if....
...the author hadn't been so hung up on writing a mystery.

'The Keeper of Secrets' isn't that. It's a terrific story about a violin surviving World War II and the Cold War by the skin of her teeth, sandwiched between a stultifyingly boring contemporary storyline about a bunch of rich people trying to figure out, 'The Red Violin'-style, what happened to the...
Published 16 months ago by Doc Occula


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Imagine the Research!, June 3, 2013
By 
Tui Allen (Te Pahu, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Keeper of Secrets: A Novel (Paperback)
The thought of the research necessary to write a novel like this is quite mind-blowing. Research of the details of the German and Russian eras covered, the musical background, the violin itself and its history, the details about conditions in Dachau. The author needs congratulating for all that alone. Yet on top of that she created a gripping tale that kept me up late reading into the small hours of the night for two nights in a row and the research never once intruded to slow down the telling of the tale, yet you had rock-solid confidence that this author had got it right.
I've read many accounts of the sufferings of Jews in the second world war, yet somehow had never read an account of the terrors of Krystallnacht from the point of view of a Jew until I read this book. It was enlightening.
I'm New Zealander, like this author and like her, had parents who had fought in WW2, and I find it cool that one of my nationality can write of these events so far from our home with the conviction that comes from having had family history that was a part of this world history. It feels right to me that Julie Thomas has written this story.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Tears of an Angel", June 1, 2013
By 
Suncoast "Suncoast" (Sunshine Coast, Australia) - See all my reviews
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"The Keeper of Secrets" by New Zealand author Julie Thomas is a remarkable book and has already gone into my best reads for 2013. It is compassionate, historical, essentially musical and at times extremely emotional. It is a story of a German Jew (a Holocaust survivor), a Spanish Catholic (Maestro Conductor), a music loving Russian billionaire, and a very special violin made in the early 1700's by Guarneri del Gesù.

We all know about Stradavarius violins, but some of the world's most famous violinists, such as Paganini, Heifetz, and Menuhin, preferred Guarneris to Stradivaris because of stronger fundamentals of the lowest notes and a darker sound than a Stradivarius.

Before WWII Simon Horowitz lived in Berlin with his wealthy Jewish family and had played the violin since he was four years old. His family owned many priceless things, but the most precious and valuable was a Guarneri del Gesù violin. When Daniel and his family were sent to Dachau, the Nazis added the violin to their museum of stolen artefacts.

Simon was the only member of the family who survived Dachau. Many years later his grandson, Daniel, shows extreme talent as a violinist and at the tender age of 14 wins an international competition run by Maestro Rafael Gomez. Daniel is just as dedicated to baseball as music and when his family tries to make him stop playing baseball because he may damage his hands Daniel decides to give up music. To persuade Daniel to keep playing, Maestro Gomez delves into the past of Daniel's family and that of his benefactor, music loving Russian billionaire Sergei Valentino, and discovers amazing tales of horror, survival, deception and love.

While reading is my greatest passion, music is not far behind - "Although music can be many things, in its truest incarnation, at its deepest core, music is the power to command emotion." This book combined my two greatest passions and touched my emotions as few books have done. The book could also have been titled "The Tears of an Angel" - you need to read the book to see if you agree.

Well done Julie Thomas - you have written a notable book. Congratulations on having the book published by HarperCollins in both the Australasian and US markets.

PS After reading the book I searched for information about violins made by Guarneri del Gesù. The images show absolutely beautiful instruments which have touched the hearts of musicians through the ages. A couple of years ago virtuoso violinist Aaron Rosand sold a Guarneri del Gesù violin he had played for over 50 years for around $10 million, reportedly to a Russian billionaire!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Would have been five stars if...., June 26, 2013
This review is from: The Keeper of Secrets: A Novel (Paperback)
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...the author hadn't been so hung up on writing a mystery.

'The Keeper of Secrets' isn't that. It's a terrific story about a violin surviving World War II and the Cold War by the skin of her teeth, sandwiched between a stultifyingly boring contemporary storyline about a bunch of rich people trying to figure out, 'The Red Violin'-style, what happened to the violin. I began the story having to wade through the contemporary section, hoping things would get better, continually putting the book down for weeks because I frankly couldn't care less about concert management and scheduling and, unfortunately, the main characters of the book, a lifeless teenaged boy and a privileged principal conductor. However, the moment the book flashed back to 1935, it kept me up at night, chewing my fingernails at the urgency which suddenly infused the story. This is what Thomas should have left alone and not bothered with the 'mystery' about what happened to the valuable Guarnerius in the twenty-first century. In fact, as a mystery, it would have been even more compelling NOT to know, thanks to the vagarities of war and the caprices of the horrible people perpetrating it. The terrible descriptions of the camps populated by fascinating people and the secretive Soviet Union during Reconstruction were what was actually worth reading; extremely compelling and beautifully crafted. Then, when the book flashed back forward and wound its way up to a pat, somewhat ludicrous conclusion, I hurried through just to finish it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good novel about fate...and a violin, May 25, 2013
This review is from: The Keeper of Secrets: A Novel (Paperback)
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Julie Thomas's novel, "The Keeper of Secrets", is a well-written novel about how a priceless violin has been lost and found again, affecting three generations of families in Germany, Russian, and the United States. Daniel Horowitz is the great-grandson of the original owner of the 1742 Guarneri del Gesu violin. The violin had actually been in the Horowitz family for generations, as has the talent to play the instrument. But in the late 1930's the Berlin Horowitz family was sent to Dachau and Auschwitz and the violin disappeared forever.

Flash forward 60 years, and to the United States, to young Daniel, who is the culmination of the Horowitz family's violin-playing genius. At 14, he's well on his way to a superb career, however, his interest in playing the violin is equaled by his passion to play baseball. But his parents and teachers don't want him to chance damaging his hands by playing the game he loves and he swears he will stop playing the violin if he's not allowed to play ball. Step up a Spanish conductor who has taken an interest in Daniel and his talent. He decides to track down the lost violin to inspire Daniel to continue playing.

Thomas has written a lovely story about a family - actually a couple of families - and how the violin has brought them all together. It's not great literature, but it is a very solid read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3 1/2 Stars If Allowed, June 19, 2013
By 
2LZ (Long Island, New York) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Keeper of Secrets: A Novel (Paperback)
I received a copy of The Keeper of Secrets by Julie Thomas as an Early Reviewer for Librarything.com in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions.

Initially, I did not think I was going to enjoy The Keeper of Secrets. The author's writing style was distracting with the abundance of adjectives used to describe every person, place and thing. I am not sure if, over several chapters, I became accustomed to Ms. Thomas' writing style or if the author's writing changed as her novel progressed, but I did adapt to it as I became more involved with the story.

It is always appealing when a book can teach something new to its reader. I learned a great deal about violins, their beauty, their history, their craftsmanship, and their designers. Equally as interesting, but also heartbreaking, was the connection of these extraordinary instruments to the Holocaust and how they represented many of the precious items confiscated from the Jewish people by the Nazis during World War II. The violin stood as a beacon of hope for the Horowitz family during this desperate and bleak period of history.

The author presented a very rich and satisfying story, yet, certain situations were too convenient, too simple; resolution was too easy. I thought the Epilogue was a nice touch. I always appreciate getting a glimpse of what became of the characters.

I enjoyed The Keeper of Secrets, and I do recommend reading it, but with some reservations. I would have rated this item with 3 1/2 stars if given the option.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite wonderful, October 17, 2013
This review is from: The Keeper of Secrets: A Novel (Paperback)
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It's truly brilliant and praise-worthy that the writing here is strong enough to hold together the many time and history references that are the story of this violin. It does so with sort of an amazing ability to retain a sense of story and never confuse and never resemble a history lesson.

Very emotional.

This is the story of people, not an object. However, it may change the way you look at objects, looking into them to those who've touched and been touched. Seeing in them triumph and sorrow.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Had hoped to like it more, September 2, 2013
By 
Daffy Du (Del Mar, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Keeper of Secrets: A Novel (Paperback)
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"The Red Violin" meets "Black Beauty" in this contrived story, which traces the fate of a priceless 18th-century Guarneri del Gesu violin and the people who owned it, from 1939 to, well, ultimately, 30 years into the future. The author has promise as a writer, IMO--she writes fluently and knows how to use language, and she clearly did lots of research about classical music, violins, Judaism and other aspects of her story. But the plot is both improbable and predictable and the characters two-dimensional, perhaps because there are so many of them that she didn't take the time to really flesh any of them out. The result is a book that reads like genre fiction, not the literary novel about music that I had hoped for. Like at least one other reviewer, I seriously considered abandoning the book less than 100 pages in, but decided to stick it out, if only to fulfill my obligation to review it.

I'm a big music lover, so I had high hopes for The Keeper of Secrets. But I found it too derivative and too many aspects of it amateurish. As a first novel, it's probably decent. When compared to others I've read by more seasoned and accomplished writers, it's a disappointment.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Could have been so much better, June 29, 2013
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This review is from: The Keeper of Secrets: A Novel (Paperback)
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Parts of this book are interesting and well-written and the rest is incredibly boring and unnecessary. The book is about an extremely valuable violin that was taken from a family of Jews in Berlin and ended up with a Russian billionaire. The sections of the book that tell of the horrors of the Holocaust, the part the Soviets played in the war, and what life was like in Soviet Russia are very interesting and if the book dealt solely with those parts I would have given it a much better review. The first chapters of the book, about a boy named Daniel who is an incredibly talented violinist who wants to play baseball are boring and pointless. Perhaps if I was someone with deep knowledge of orchestras, conductors, etc., then this part of the book wouldn't have seemed so pointless to me but I doubt it.
Also, and this is just a little thing that bothered me, Sergei's grandfather is said to be a "heavyset" man and is described as being 6'4" and over two hundred and eight pounds. A man that tall at only two hundred and eight pounds wouldn't be considered heavyset in the least. Perhaps it was a typo and should have read two hundred and eighty pounds, which would make a lot more sense.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, Moving and Very Interesting, June 16, 2013
By 
RWH (Australia) - See all my reviews
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I saw this book being promoted on Goodreads and it reminded me of the movie, The Red Violin which I saw years ago and really enjoyed. I love the violin and this book sounded like an interesting read, and it deserves every five star review it has received.

It is a wonderful story and very moving. I could not stop reading it and just wanted to know what was going to happen in the end. It tells the story of two families and it draws you in as part of the story, and you could feel the tragedy of the events. There is a great deal of interesting historical and musical information which has been very well researched and that mixed with the story makes for a wonderful read. There are many sad moments but also many beautiful moments, and even though I'm not a very emotional person, this book really touched me. I can't recommend this highly enough.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely wonderful book, June 10, 2013
This review is from: The Keeper of Secrets: A Novel (Paperback)
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The Keeper of Secrets by author Julie Thomas is an absolutely wonderful book. The author writes a well-researched book about an every day boy with musical talent. Interwoven into the story is the tale of violins and music. The violin mystery will keep you hooked. The writing is superb, detailed and will keep your reading.

Highly recommend.

Penmouse
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The Keeper of Secrets: A Novel
The Keeper of Secrets: A Novel by Julie Thomas (Paperback - May 28, 2013)
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