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La pianista bambina

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  542 ratings  ·  109 reviews
Per cinquant'anni della sua vita, il 25 dicembre Greg ha festeggiato con la famiglia il Natale e il compleanno di sua madre. E neppure un giorno, per mezzo secolo, ha sospettato quale enorme segreto potesse nascondersi dietro le candeline soffiate, i regali e gli addobbi. Un segreto che sua madre, a più di ottant'anni, decide di svelare. Ed è così, all'improvviso, che la s ...more
Paperback, 279 pages
Published 2010 by Piemme (first published June 27th 2009)
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The story of two sisters, Russian/Ukrainian Jewish piano prodigies, who survived the war under false identities playing the piano for Nazi officers. Written by the son of one of the girls. The section on the war is not as detailed as I would like, and it covers only about half the book -- the rest of the pages are devote to the girls' childhood and the beginnings of their musical careers, and then to the post-war period. I was fascinated by the character of the American officer who recognized th ...more
Zhanna and Frina were lucky in many ways: they were blessed with substantial talent, staunchly supportive parents, a rich musical culture, and each other. Without any one of these, they may not have even survived the unspeakable atrocities that took their family and neighbors; but they did more than just survive. The headstrong young Zhanna took her father's parting words to heart, and he would be proud of just how she lived.

Besides telling Zhanna's incredible story, Hiding in the Spotlight is
I borrowed this from my mother, who received the book as a Christmas present. As far as Holocaust memoirs go, this one is pretty well-done. The writing flows nicely and the story really moves along. The book opens in Russia's Ukraine, which is a part of the war I hadn't read about previously. The girls in the book escape extermination in a mass grave at the edge of a ravine, where it is assumed the rest of their family dies (their father bribed a guard to look away when the eldest daughter ran; ...more
I felt fortunate to find this book on a librarian's list.........otherwise I might have missed it.
It succeeded for me on many levels: history, music, family ties, research, etc.
A friend lent this book to me for reading. The story is about Zhanna and her sister Frina, two musical prodigies who survive the Holocaust due to their ability with music. The author does a good job of outlining the history surrounding the two sisters so that the reader can see how their story fits into the general story of WWII in Europe. Any story about the Holocaust is intense - it is hard to even imagine much less understand the scope of atrocity that was led by Hitler and the Third Reich.

I wanted to give this 5 stars, but I just couldn't. The story itself is mesmerizing, and it was worth reading. But the writing was painfully repetitive. Honestly, because of the repetition, I wouldn't recommend the book to anyone over the age of 15. But maybe that is OK... it would be a great way to educate musically inclined kids on the horrors of WWII.... a topic which is so far removed from today's kids that it maybe hard for them to relate without *someone* for them to relate to. Both of my ...more
A beautiful narrative/memoir, astounding story, terrifically written. Sometimes at the end of a chapter, I would listen to recordings on YouTube of the music (there is a list in the book of the music the sisters played during the war, and on YouTube videos of both sisters performing). The music and vitality propel you through the story.

When about halfway through, I wrote to Corinna:
"Although anything about the Holocaust is horrible, it's such an easy read. She [Zhanna Arschanskaj] can relate so
I was intrigued by the story of Jewish sisters and musical prodigies surviving the Holocaust by assuming fake names and performing for German soldiers. It was interesting to read about their experiences, growing up with music as a foundation of their lives, getting into a number of prestigious schools and performing opportunities. Then, to see how things changed in an instant and how the future - once promising and bright - became only nothing more than a question and a hope for survival as they ...more
I received this book as a Christmas present, and got so caught up in the story, I nearly decided to purchase a copy for my Kindle so I could put it in "text to speech" mode while mopping my kitchen floor (in the end, I managed to restrain myself).

In this book, Greg Dawson tells the story of his mother, a young piano prodigy who survives the Nazi occupation of her beloved Ukraine by literally playing for her life. It's a fascinating read about a girl who must learn to rely on her musical talent,
Candy Dawson
Greg Dawson and his amazing mother, Zhanna, have combined to put Zhanna's musical odyssey into words. It took the questions of a granddaughter, Aimee, then 14, to open the long-sealed doors to horrific memories. Zhanna was a child of 14 herself when the Nazis forced her Jewish family from their home in Ukraine. In artistic words befitting the musical artist that she is, Zhanna's evocative memories share the page with her son's narrative to tell the harrowing yet uplifting story. She fulfilled he ...more

For years I have studied the Holocaust, the Final Solution. My interest was heightened as a 17 year old when I had the the privilege of studying piano with a Latvian survivor, a former concert pianist. I knew only that she met her husband in a camp after the war. Since then I have read countless personal stories of survivors, rescuers, and memoirs, yet I never forget the quiet, middle-aged woman teaching piano in MI, in the 1960's, and I wonder.

In this remarkable story, Greg Dawson takes the sh
Before diving into this book, I read some reviews here on GoodReads. Thus armed with some opinions in regards to the writing and editing I expected to be somewhat disappointed.

How delighted I was to find just the opposite. I've read other books that I thought were more poorly written & with more glaring editorial mistakes. I was not nearly as bothered as I expected to be.

And what a story this was. That was truly a horrific time in history & those brave survivors are disappearing from th
No matter how much I have read about the German atrocities in W. W. II, I was sickened all over again to read the awful story of Sara, Dimitri, and their two daughters, Zhanna and Frina, marching to certain death in the Ukraine. Stalin's lack of preparation for war left the country vulnerable; once the killing began he blocked the news reports, leaving the Jewish population defenceless. Zhanna escaped into the forest with nothing except her father's coat and his admonition, "Just live." She was ...more
I would actually give this three-and-a-half stars. What makes the book highly compelling is that it's a remarkable, true story of Holocaust survival. When they are in their young teens two Russian Jewish sisters who are extraordinary piano-playing prodigies are being force marched with their family and several thousand other Jews to a ravine where the invading Nazis will execute them. Their father bribes a guard to let the older daughter escape. How the younger daughter escapes is never revealed ...more
Feb 19, 2011 Melissa rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes biographies, autobiographies, or true stories.
Shelves: auto-biographies
A fascinating story of two Russian-Jewish sisters, Zhanna and Frina, living during WWII. While there are some disturbing and tragic parts, true to the nature of the time, place and events that were going on, the overall tone of the story is hopeful. I cannot believe all they went through, and they have my respect.

One thing that struck me most about this book was that elements of their wartime experience reminded me strikingly of other WWII stories I have read of German citizens. Wartime makes b
Antonio Mercurio
ottimo libro nella versione italiana. Il titolo è La pianista bambina di Greg Dawson e parla di due bambine ucraine che scampano allo sterminio di Hitler degli ebrei. Il padre riesce a farle scappare e il loro amore per la musica le farà incontrare il soldato Larry che le aiuterà a finire gli studi di musica e a suonare nelle migliori scuole in presenza di artisti come loro scampati alla tragedia dei campi di sterminio
I have set out to read memoir or historical fiction set in various countries involved with WWII. This is the first book I read with Ukrainian ties. It is about how a Jewish child piano prodigy and her sister survived for four years by performing concerts for Nazi soldiers. They were even based out of Berlin for a time!

In 1945, the American commander of a refugee camp hears the sisters play. The only way he can get them immigration papers to the US is by adopting them. A year after re-settling i
This is an amazing story not only of survival, but of how the main characters flourished by holding onto the hope and strength they learned from their family before tragedy finally struck.

I appreciated how the author's style of writing helps drive home that this is an uplifting story, in spite of the horrors of the war. He switches between his own narrative and Zhanna's own powerful, matter-of-fact words. Any discussion of the political and historical background further highlights the improbabi
It hurts me to give this two stars. It's a very interesting story - one that certainly needed telling. But it is full of editing errors and the authors habit of using esoteric words when a plain straight forward regular word would do just made me narrow one eye ever so slightly. Of course the story was touching - two talented Russian Jewish sisters who escaped death during WWII because of their father's determination - survive because they are both brave and lucky to a certain extent. The son (t ...more
Max Rocca
Una storia vera, la testimonianza dello scrittore che narra la vita di Sua madre, sin da bambina quando in Ucraina la passione del padre la spinge a svelare il suo talento innato per la musica e per il piano e così con lei anche la sorella. L'arrivo dei nazisti la spingono prima alla prigionia e poi alla fuga, sullo sfondo dell'invasione dei nazisti in Russia, le due sorelle sempre più unite vivono nascoste cambiando nomi , e anche quando arriveranno gli americani dovranno nascondere l'identità ...more
Yet another WWII book, but from a different perspective than I've read before. This is the true story of a Russian Jew who managed to get through the holocaust by using her exceptional musical talents (and a set of false papers) to hide right out in the open. Written by her son, a professional journalist, the book is easy to read and tells a fascinating story. If I have a complaint, it's that the editing is poor. Not only are there frequent typos and incorrect words, which I wouldn't expect from ...more
Lovingly written story by the subject's son. Fascinating story of survival. Not the best written book I've ever read by I give him props for telling the story and doing so in a touching fashion and keeping it interesting. It's a quick read full of personal insight.
Kristin Cook
I was expecting this to be a depressing, horrifying story, but it was anything but. These girls survived something unthinkable and came out of seemingly alright...

The author and his mother, Zhanna, came to my area to give a talk. Although I couldn't go, my students and the faculty who did get to go, said Zhanna was lovely, spry, and completely irrepressible! She told them a bit of her story, but her son really just wanted her to play for the audience, which she did fabulously!! (the kids made a
This was an interesting story. It follows the authors mother, who was a piano prodigy and also a Jew in the Ukraine during WWII. In order to survive they had to hide their identity, but they couldn't hide their talent.

I was struck by all the people that helped these girls, despite their personal risk. These were not part of the underground and didn't hide Jews long term, they saw two girls in need and gave them a place to sleep for the night or some food or advice. It was touching. It was also a
Jo Young Switzer
Loved this book. Vivid details. Alternative narratives by the woman who hid in the spotlight as a concert pianist and a fuller background explication by her son. Inspiring, chilling,min tense, vivid.
Christina Varghese
I really enjoyed this book written by the son of one of the sister prodigies and Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. It is amazing what they went through. I kept wondering how they would make it through even though I knew they would since the son is alive to tell the story of his mother and aunt. The main reason I have this book 4 stars is because I feel like there was some repetitiveness occasionally which I found slightly annoying when it occurred but quickly got over as I plunged deeper into t ...more
What a great story! Another unbelievable testament to the courage of the Jews that survived the holocaust. I would love to hear these two sisters play!
I enjoyed this book because it is a true story and a slightly different view than other Holocaust stories. It still has some of the same horrific events but I enjoyed the perspective of musicians who were in the middle and yet in a different world as well. Zhanna and the author (her son) visited my daughters High School and talked about her experiences. It was an added bonus insight to the story. I feel I learned a bit more about the time in history as I read. I liked that it spanned several cou ...more
The story of a Russian Jewish girl who went into hiding during WWII and ended up having to perform concerts for Nazi officers and soldiers. It made me reflect a lot on my Polish/Russian ancestors. While, I do not have any Jewish roots and none of my ancestors immigrated under such duress, there were a few images - like Zhanna stepping off the boat in America with only the clothes on her back and her accordian - which made me think of my great-grandfather abandoned his concertina on the ship when ...more
Shauna Elias
Such a different and amazing story of surviving WWII than most of the ones I have read. To me this wasn't just a book about survival, but about the passion of music, the people who play it and what a difference it can make. I am not a musician, and as a parent of several musicians it was interesting to read what Zhanna Arshanskaya thought and felt when playing, when listening to famous musicians play, and her thoughts about particular compositions. Her father's passion for his children is someth ...more
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