By Monique Roy
The art world is filled with secrets and a dark past.
Mystery abounds as Oxford art student Ava Goldman tries to unravel the truth about her family’s past with the help of her ailing grandmother, Gisela. It begins with a “chance” encounter with a uniformed Nazi on the banks of the Thames River in 2013, followed by a posthumous letter from Ava’s art loving grandfather, Karl. Vowing to find a priceless van Gogh painting plundered by the Nazis from her grandparents, Ava steps into a world of shadow, mystery, and menace.
Masterfully written, A Savage Kultur shines light on a too-often forgotten chapter of world history: Nazi looting of hundreds of thousands of pieces of art from Jewish owners during World War II.
This book packs a wallop, with a riveting plot reminiscent of Woman in Gold (Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, 2015). I couldn’t put it down!
Intricate and intriguing, A Savage Kultur is peopled with memorable characters: Ava and her boyfriend Jonas, who has a dark family secret. Gordon Rose, an alert art lover. There’s more to him than meets the eye. A creepy art forger. A grandmother with dementia. And who’s Charlotte?
A Skillful Weft
The clever historical narrative includes a skillful weft of fiction with fact, including Operation Bernhard, Kristallnacht, the Lebensborn program, and the German blitz of London. Also:
- Evil triumphs when people are silent
- Art that challenged the imagination and that reminded a person of his individuality threatened the power and authority of the State.
- There can be no great future without the truth, without knowing about the past.
- It’s not about chasing the past, it’s about justice.
- Watch the lake. Answers lie there.
This story is really a two-fer: 1) Ava’s mission to find stolen art, 2) and her grandfather’s history. The latter takes us to Germany in the late 1930s as we plunge into Karl’s back story.
Hitler and Nazism are on the rise. Ava’s grandfather and his Jewish wife, Gisela, flee Munich for an isolated dairy farm high in the mountains. But evil stalks them there, too. Can they escape before it’s too late? What secrets lie beneath the frigid waters of an alpine lake? What’s become of thousands of pieces of stolen art? Will Ava ever locate the stolen van Gogh? And what about justice?
Somewhere in the chaos, a tender love story unfolds.
The only real criticism I have of this book is its title. It doesn’t tell prospective readers much about the story and it kinda goes thud.
Even so, this is a taut, compelling tale of courage and determination. Loss and restoration. Tragedy and triumph. And hope. It’s historical fiction at its finest. 100% absorbing, this fast-paced, fascinating historical novel will resonate long after the final page is turned.