June 8, 2021
Blurb: 1938, Salzburg. A powerful story of hope, forbidden love, and incredible courage, about three sisters who will risk everything—even their own lives—as part of the resistance movement in Nazi-occupied Austria.
Johanna, Birgit and Lotte Eder have always lived quiet lives, working in their father’s clockmaking shop and helping their mother in the house. But like many other Austrians, they find it impossible to ignore the changes in the world around them.
At first Johanna finds it hard to believe the Nazis pose a real threat. But then her father hires Franz to help in his shop. He’s kind and soulful, with dark eyes that twinkle with intelligence. But he’s Jewish, and as Johanna falls for him, she realizes that loving him puts them all in danger.
Then comes the Anschluss—the reunification of Austria and Germany under Nazi rule. The three sisters’ lives have become ever more separate with Lotte joining the convent at Nonnberg Abbey and Birgit’s secret involvement with the Resistance. But as Johanna realizes how mistaken she was about the level of danger, she begins to see that it may be down to her to protect the man she loves.
She knows that she can’t do it alone though. She will have to turn to the people she trusts the most: her sisters.
The three of them work together to try to get Franz to the safety of Switzerland, and they soon prove invaluable to the Resistance. But they’re risking everything. Can three women who would die for each other, also be prepared to die for what is right?
The sisters’ subsequent journey from Nazi-occupied Salzburg to the devastating concentration camps of Ravensbruck and Mauthausen will show the strength of human spirit like never before. As, out of the darkness, a tiny seed of hope flowers…
The Edelweiss Sisters by Kate Hewitt spans nearly a decade from the mid-30’s until the end of WWII, telling the story of three sisters, Johanna, Birgit, and Lotte, as they navigate their lives in Salzburg in the innocent days before the Nazi occupation and then in the tumultuous ones after.
Although the sisters look similar with their blonde hair and blue eyes, they are as different as night and day. Johanna feels stuck in her life as kitchen-helper to her mother. She longs to be married and have a family, but how can she meet anyone when she’s stuck in the kitchen all the time? Birgit assists her father in his clock business but when he hires Franz as an apprentice, not acknowledging the work she does, she soon realizes that she is as invisible as she feels. Lotte is the bright, pretty, cheerful one, the one who is attentive and loves peace, but she’s not happy as the family songbird. She finds herself drawn to the calm of the nuns in the local abbey and sets out to determine if she has a vocation.
As time passes, the women are tested, compelled to decide what is right and moral and just exactly what they should do when the confronted with the atrocities brought on by the inhumane Nazi regime.
The Edelweiss Sisters was a gripping and emotional story that I picked up at every opportunity. Hewitt depicted the sisters so realistically, especially regarding their foibles, and they were so self-aware that I felt like I was reading about real people.
The fear and tension of the Nazi invasion was palpable especially compared to the pre-war scenes in which individuals believed that their lives would always be peaceful, that evil would not cross the border. Hewitt ably took us to that time of suffering, fear, and heartbreak, making us feel and realize how little time it takes to change worlds–although perhaps this we realize after the past year.
While The Edelweiss Sisters is quite different from the first Kate Hewitt novel I read, A Vicarage Wedding (see my review), the two novels have made me a Kate Hewitt fan because of strong writing, excellent characterization, and a knack for on-point detail. Keep tissues close by for this one.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
5 out of 5 butterflies