Friday, October 23, 2015

The Butterfly and the Violin, by Kristy Cambron

A story of an old, lost painting, with an Auschwitz prisoner who played the violin. Her beautiful eyes and tattooed wrist only make the picture more startling and vivid.

That's the premise of The Butterfly and the Violin, by Kristy Cambron.

I heard many good things about Kristy Cambron over the last couple of years. I always intended to look up her book, but never got around to it.

Then I met Kristy herself.

She dropped by first-timer's orientation at the ACFW conference in September, taking time to meet and greet a roomful of scared, excited newbies with a love for writing. We stopped and talked, and she signed a poster for me. Then we talked a bit more as we walked down the halls to the main session. I loved her bright spirit and the way she paid attention to the needs of people around her. I knew I wanted to buy her book as soon as I could.

The next night, I walked down to the conference area for a worship and writing session, only to bump into another conference attendee. "Kristy's doing a talk on Bible verse mapping downstairs," she said. "It's an impromptu thing; a bunch of people were interested."

I originally came down to work like crazy on my newest novel outline. Instead, I went straight to the room where Kristy was speaking and heard an inspiring way of studying Scripture, with careful attention to the correct meaning in its pages. Through that talk, I knew that hers was a heart for Jesus that I really, really wanted to put some support towards.

As soon as I came home, I picked up The Butterfly and the Violin at our local Christian bookstore. It was just as beautiful as I hoped and thought it would be.

The Story [From Amazon]

A Mysterious painting breathes hope and beauty into the darkest corners of Auschwitz--and the loneliest hearts of Manhattan.
Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl--a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes.
In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with William Hanover--the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul--who may be the key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece. Together Sera and William slowly unravel the story behind the painting's subject: Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron.

A darling of the Austrian aristocracy of 1942, talented violinist, and daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks everything when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna. In a heartbeat, her life of prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and barbed wire. As Sera untangles the secrets behind the painting, she finds beauty in the most unlikely of places: the grim camps of Auschwitz and the inner recesses of her own troubled heart.

My Thoughts
This story is so subtle and beautiful. That's what I look for in Christian fiction--subtlety and beauty woven together into a masterpiece of grace and growth. Even the cover has a beauty that a lot of classic readers are starved for--the painting, distressed look that doesn't need a lot of bright colors and sharp photography to grab the attention.

Adele's deep despair playing music in the Women's Orchestra of Auschwitz as prisoners marched to work and execution gripped my heart. The romance between her and Vladimir was sweet and welcome. The plotting was excellent, with the way her modern counterparts, Sera and James worked through the mystery piece by piece, as their story flipped back and forth with Adele's.

I love the way Kristy uses objects. A violin. A photograph. A butterfly clip. Poppy lipstick. Each object held deep significance, and appeared again and again throughout the story in a way that added skilled imagery and word play. I love the way she used art--I don't recall ever reading a fiction story that made the celebration of art so special. The use of painting and music to connect soul to God using the abilities He gives us. She doesn't shy away from it, or downplay it as less important than other aspects of faith. Christian art was one of the central themes of the story. One of my favorite sentences is when she says,
She told herself that to have something of worth in a world full of chaos was the very definition of beauty. It felt like a spiritual liberation that couldn't be silenced. These prisoners, the ones who painted or wrote poetry or played in the orchestra--they refused to let that spirit die. And this, she decided, is why the heart creates.
In Sera and William's story, mentions of "Mr. California Cool" and men's cologne weren't up my alley. There are moments throughout the story where the subtlety and uniqueness shifts into familiar phraseology of Christian romance. A couple of modern words in the historical story jerked me out of the moment. But those were small things, and I wasn't opposed to the modern storyline being included. I really appreciated that William wasn't a grouch throwing obstacles in Kristy's way, but a surprisingly warm-hearted and friendly young man. The outdoor rehearsal dinner was an especially vivid scene, and many of the elements had an air of things the author herself knew and enjoyed. I don't know. That's strictly a guess. But I loved it for that.

The heart of the story--love, beauty, art, suffering--beat strong and clear at every turn, making this a soul-enriching experience. I look forward to more of Kristy's work in future. The Butterfly and the Violin was a beautiful introduction into her writing world.


  1. What a great story! Sounds like a beautiful novel, too. I grew tired of Holocaust books after reading several in high school -- I mean, two in one semester is too many. It hurts. But this sounds like a bit of a different angle, and it's been a good long while since I've dipped my toes into this genre...

    1. It does hurt. I'm not always quick to pick them up either. This one has a lot of suspense and emotion, but I think you would enjoy it! :)

  2. I've seen people talk about this book and I haven't been very interested because it really looks like one of those books with mediocre quality, but now your review made me want to read it.

    1. I think you'll find it better than you expected, Victoria! Not every sentence is a home run, but by far the overall artistry of it is remarkable. Let me know if you look it up! :)

      ~Schuyler <3

  3. A beautiful review of a beautiful book, Schuyler!

    "This story is so subtle and beautiful. That's what I look for in Christian fiction--subtlety and beauty woven together into a masterpiece of grace and growth. Even the cover has a beauty that a lot of classic readers are starved for. . ." I agree so much; this book felt like a sweet refreshment for me in the Christian genre, a cup of cold water on a hot day, just the beauty and inspiration that this story told, and Cambron's lovely, lyrical writing.

    I think you'll like "A Sparrow in Terezin" too - it was equally moving and beautiful.
    But I agree about the contemporary story-line. . . those things always bug me in Christian-romance fiction, and contemporary novels have this element heightened, sadly.

    1. I think her writing is an extension of who she is as a person. I do hope you are able to meet her someday, I so want you to be able to. I can't wait to read A Sparrow in Terezin! :) <3


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