Monday 5 December 2016

Review ~ From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon

Book Description:

Italy, 1943—Germany occupies much of the country, placing the Jewish population in grave danger during World War II.

As children, Eva Rosselli and Angelo Bianco were raised like family but divided by circumstance and religion. As the years go by, the two find themselves falling in love. But the church calls to Angelo and, despite his deep feelings for Eva, he chooses the priesthood.

Now, more than a decade later, Angelo is a Catholic priest and Eva is a woman with nowhere to turn. With the Gestapo closing in, Angelo hides Eva within the walls of a convent, where Eva discovers she is just one of many Jews being sheltered by the Catholic Church.

But Eva can’t quietly hide, waiting for deliverance, while Angelo risks everything to keep her safe. With the world at war and so many in need, Angelo and Eva face trial after trial, choice after agonizing choice, until fate and fortune finally collide, leaving them with the most difficult decision of all.

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Our Review:

Reviewed by Donna ~ 5 stars

“Why do people hate us so much?”

This book has been a double-edged sword for me this year, on one side it was one of my most anticipated reads for this year, on the other my most dreaded. I have tried to read historical many, many times and I have never been able to finish one, for some reason the genre itself just cannot hold my interest. Amy Harmon is an author that is a one click buy for me, she could write the phone book and I would read it, but historical? Could Amy Harmon make this reader love a historical book? Well the answer was a resounding yes. From the moment I picked up this book I was rapt, maybe it was because it wasn’t a “Downton Abbey” type read, this was a history lesson all the while wrapped within one of the most determined, heart wrenching and against all odds love stories I have ever read.

“there are some hurts and some memories that are better laid to rest, better left to the mellow patina of photographs and selective remembrance.”

I have seen the documentaries, I have seen the films, I have studied this subject in history lessons, but nothing could have prepared me for this book. To say I was moved would be the biggest understatement, to say I was horrified is another huge understatement. Despite knowing the truth surrounding the holocaust, to see a life journey through the eyes of two survivors somehow hammers it home just how brave, self-sacrificing, strong, resilient and lucky these people were. While this account is fictional it is based on true events and you can tell that Amy Harmon must have painstakingly researched this. The depth, the knowledge, the intricacies of this story bleed through the pages and you cannot help but sit back in wonderment at the time and effort that must have gone into bringing Angelo and Eva’s story to life.

“War has a way of stripping us of perspective. War is about life and death, and it paints everything in shades of now or never. We do things we otherwise wouldn’t because never is so frightening and now, so comforting. ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we may die.’”

Amy Harmon is an exquisite story teller, this woman holds an immense amount of power within her words, the power to transport you, to embed you, to destroy you, to uplift you, with one sentence, one paragraph, one chapter. Amy Harmon’s talent knows no bounds and no matter the subject, no matter the genre she has proven her versatility and just what an immense gift she has. Amy Harmon has wowed me time and time again, already this year she reached the upper echelons with The Bird and the Sword and now she has done it again, but she surpassed what I had already labelled as her best book yet, this without a shadow of a doubt is her best book by a country mile.

“Life is like a long note; it persists without variance, without wavering. There is no cessation in sound or pause in tempo. It continues on, and we must master it or it will master us. It mastered Uncle Felix, though one could argue that he simply laid down his bow.”

World War Two and the Holocaust are two subjects synonymous with death, heart ache, pain and human atrocity on the hugest of scales. Where one man had the power to annihilate and eradicate, to destroy families, to destroy bloodlines in the most inhumane fashion all because of religion and perceived rights and wrongs. With most accounts, you get the devastation, you get the blood thirsty bits, the sensational bits but what Amy Harmon delivers are the real heroes, the people behind the scenes that put their own lives on the lines to hide, to aid, to save the Jews that were victims in the making.

“It is one thing to kill someone. It is another to degrade and humiliate, to strip away a person’s dignity like stripping away flesh. One made a man a murderer. The other made him a monster.”

Yes, this book is devastating, it is one of the toughest reads I have ever read. I cried a river, I felt sick to my stomach such was the visceral scene setting that Amy Harmon delivered. I felt the fear, I smelled the blood, I lived the life and it bloody hurt. But despite the reality, underneath Amy Harmon delivers a story of forbidden love, a story of a priest and a talented violinist. Angelo and Eva had been brought up together, they loved each other with a passion but Angelo always knew his calling despite the temptation of Eva before him. But war, loss and death has the power to make you re-evaluate…re-evaluate choices, beliefs but most of all love and Amy Harmon nailed it. She didn’t just deliver a story, she delivered an experience, a story that you will never ever forget. A story that will move you, will certainly never leave you and one that you will thinking about for days.

“Eva was the vise . . . and the vice.”

We all think we have bad days, we think that life can be unfair, that people can be cruel. You think you have experienced heart ache but nothing and I mean nothing comes close to what these people went through. The beauty of this book though is that you feel it, you feel everything. The emotional connection and character connection was prevalent in spades, the pain and love bleeds from the pages, this book is a work of art, a Van Gogh. Everyone should read this book. If there is one book you read this year, read this.

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