book cover of Exile Music
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Exile Music

(2020)
A novel by

 
 
Based on an unexplored slice of World War II history, Exile Music is the captivating story of a young Jewish girl whose family flees refined and urbane Vienna for safe harbor in the mountains of Bolivia

As a young girl growing up in Vienna in the 1930s, Orly has an idyllic childhood filled with music. Her father plays the viola in the Philharmonic, her mother is a well-regarded opera singer, her beloved and charismatic older brother holds the neighborhood in his thrall, and most of her eccentric and wonderful extended family live nearby. Only vaguely aware of Hitler's rise or how her Jewish heritage will define her family's identity, Orly spends her days immersed in play with her best friend and upstairs neighbor, Anneliese. Together they dream up vivid and elaborate worlds, where they can escape the growing tensions around them.

But in 1938, Orly's peaceful life is shattered when the Germans arrive. Her older brother flees Vienna first, and soon Orly, her father, and her mother procure refugee visas for La Paz, a city high up in the Bolivian Andes. Even as the number of Jewish refugees in the small community grows, her family is haunted by the music that can no longer be their livelihood, and by the family and friends they left behind. While Orly and her father find their footing in the mountains, Orly's mother grows even more distant, harboring a secret that could put their family at risk again. Years pass, the war ends, and Orly must decide: Is the love and adventure she has found in La Paz what defines home, or is the pull of her past in Europe--and the piece of her heart she left with Anneliese--too strong to ignore?

Genre: Historical

Praise for this book

"Out of this this little-known corner of history, Steil offers a beautiful meditation on the things we all hold dear - family, friendship, home. My Beautiful Friend meets The Pianist in this elegant symphony of a novel." - Ruth Gilligan

"This riveting, elegantly rendered coming-of-age story sheds light on the community of Jewish refugees who found sanctuary in La Paz, Bolivia. With vivid historical details and unforgettable characters, Exile Music captures the heartbreak of exile, the painful scars of survival, and the redemptive power of art." - Amy Gottlieb

"Vienna, Austria and La Paz, Bolivia; war and peace; immediate love and mingled yearning; tangled desires sprung from single seeds—Exile Music is a magnificent exercise in connections among objects, ideas, and places that seem to have nothing in common, but do." - Beth Kephart

"Gorgeous and lyrical, Exile Music captures the delicate rhythm of one girl's coming of age while driven by war and exile. Heart-wrenching, tender and powerful." - Jean Kwok

"Jennifer Steil has created a world that is as fierce and stunning as her exquisite language. She dares ask the question where do we belong - and forces the reader to question our own conceptions of what makes a home. Ultimately, this is a story of a woman searching for herself following unimaginable trauma." - Elizabeth L Silver


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