The Keeper of Secrets by Julie Thomas

Source: William Morrow, HarperCollins
Paperback, 384 pages
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The Keeper of Secrets by Julie Thomas is more than a debut World War II novel; it’s a novel about perseverance, passion, and the transcendent love of music that can overcome prejudice and hatred.  Simon Horowitz is a young violinist in Berlin in 1935 before the Nazi’s took full control.  His father is a prominent banker and his family enjoys special privileges, until one day they don’t.  Thomas weaves an age-old story of Nazi hatred and prejudice that takes everything from a single boy — his father, his mother, his siblings, and yes, his beloved 1742 Guarneri del Gesù violin.  Fast forward to 2008 and another young virtuoso, Daniel, who at fourteen wins a prestigious award for young violinists and catches the eye of a famed conductor.

“For a long second he blinked vigorously to adjust his eyes and steady his nerves.  All he could see were rows of mysterious shapes in the darkness, but somewhere out there his father sat, his heart beating as fast as Daniel’s.  A bead of sweat ran down his face, and he brushed it away with the cuff of his shirt as he took a few deep breaths to control the butterflies in the pit of his stomach.”  (page 9 ARC)

There are secrets kept in Daniel’s family, but he continues to have a deep loyalty to his family.  Rewind to the Nazi occupation of Berlin, and Simon is thrust into a camp — a camp he never knew existed but will never forget.  Even in the most dire situation, Simon remains tied to his music and the passion it raises within his bones and his heart.  Through this, he strives to survive and keep those he loves alive, even as the Nazis arbitrarily kill those around him.  As expected the images and horrors of Dachau will be seared into readers brains, but Thomas also hones the hope — the light — that shines on Simon in the camp.  He’s given the chance to reconnect with music in the most unexpected ways, and his reconnection ensures that the hope infiltrates the most unlikely of places.

“Routine only becomes dull when it’s safe; routine punctuated by terror remains as sharp as the first time you experience it.”  (page 159 ARC)

The Keeper of Secrets by Julie Thomas is a heart-wrenching debut novel, with a satisfying conclusion that will leave readers breathless.  Daniel, Simon, and their families’ experiences will weigh as heavily as the melancholy sounds underlying the music they play, but beyond that the music they play continues to touch the lives of even their most hated enemies and competition.

About the Author:

Julie Thomas is the New Zealand based author of The Keeper of Secrets published by William Morrow for HarperCollins USA.



This is my 82nd book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.


  1. I’m glad to see you really liked it. I’ll have to make time to read it in the new year.
    Anna´s last blog post ..The Girl’s Favorite Books of 2013

  2. Beth Hoffman says

    Wonderful review, Serena. I’m totally hooked and will definitely put this book on my list. Happy New Year to you and yours!

  3. This sounds like an amazing debut!
    bermudaonion (Kathy)´s last blog post ..Review: Provence, 1970