Mary Ronan Drew's Reviews > The Novel in the Viola

The Novel in the Viola by Natasha Solomons
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Oct 05, 2011

really liked it
Read from October 04 to 05, 2011

This title must have come to my attention from somebody's blog because it's just the sort of book my blogging friends like most, a bit like an Elizabeth von Arnim novel with a touch of Rebecca superimposed. The story is based on the experience of the author's great-aunt, who as a young woman left Vienna for England before World War II and worked as a domestic at an English estate. The house and village that the fictional Elise comes to love are also based on a real story, that of the lost village of Tyneham on the Dorset coast.

It's a lovely story about a wealthy Jewish family in Vienna who have realized by 1938 that they need to leave their beloved city. One daughter, a musician, and her husband, an astronomer, leave for California where a job teaching is waiting for him. The younger daughter, the protagonist of this novel, Elise Landau, is taken on as a parlormaid in the house of the Rivers family in Dorset. The parents are awaiting a visa which will allow them to go to New York where the mother, an opera singer, and the father, a well-known Austrian novelist, can make a new life for themselves.

But things don't go as planned and even as Elise begins to feel at home in England and falls in love with an Englishman, she worries about her parents as their visa is delayed and they find themselves trapped in Austria.

The novel is pastoral, with scenes of haying and loving descriptions of the birds and flowers of the English countryside. Elise is with the fishermen as they bring in their first mackerel catch of the season. She comes to admire the grey stone walls and cottages of the village and the golden stone of the Elizabethan manor house. Until the violence and reality of the war intrudes on their little valley and threatens everything Elise has come to love.

5 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Novel in the Viola.
Sign In »

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Merilee (new)

Merilee I'd never heard of this, but it's now on my list. I lived in Vienna for 6 1/2 years and love books from this era.

Mary Ronan Drew Merilee, how lovely to live in Vienna, city of dreams. Only the first part of this novel takes place there. The protagonist goes to England early on and most of the story takes place in Devon.

message 3: by Merilee (new)

Merilee Love Devon, too.

back to top