Foreword Reviews

The Opera Sisters

Driven by their convictions and their passion for music, two English sisters provide aid to German Jewish families in Marianne Monson’s kaleidoscopic historical novel The Opera Sisters.

In the 1930s, Ida and Louise are typists in London. They buy gramophone records, scrimp for opera tickets, meet fellow opera fans, and befriend opera stars. While traveling, they meet Mitia, a German woman who shares her ominous concerns about Adolf Hitler with them. They decide to smuggle jewels to Mitia to help keep her family safe. This decision leads the sisters to help others, too. They hasten their way through paperwork, working to find charitable guarantors and to purchase a flat in which they can house refugees. They are wide-eyed, sincere, and bolstered by their belief in musical artistry.

As Europe’s situation worsens, a sympathetic opera house director gives the Cook sisters a cover story so that they can visit Germany. There, they enter into luxurious spaces, hearing stories that cause them grief; they work to keep their intentions secret. They leverage their unassuming appearances at military check points, and they are bold and evasive when they are questioned.

This story about moral courage in the face of risk stays warm and light. Ida moonlights as a serial romance writer and novelist, and her repartee with Louise is loving. In scenes together, they are delightful, and their impact on others is clear. Elsewhere, though, there are instances of violence and uncertainty as the world moves toward war. Fears grow in Jewish communities, complemented by distant sketches of historical figures, including Neville Chamberlain. Beyond the sisters, many other individuals are only covered in glimpses, though Ida and Louise are haunted by those whom they are unable to help.

In the historical novel The Opera Sisters, ordinary women find their inner strengths, engaging in determined, clandestine actions to give others hope.

Reviewed by Karen Rigby

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the publisher for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Load Next Review