Book review: Letters to the Pianist by S.D. Mayes

  • Published: 19/09/2017
  • 412 pages
  • Format: Kindle
  • Rating: 1280px-5_stars.svg


In war torn London, 1941, fourteen-year-old Ruth Goldberg and her two younger siblings, Gabi and Hannah, survive the terrifying bombing of their family home. They believe their parents are dead, their bodies buried underneath the burnt remains – but unbeknownst to them, their father, Joe, survives and is taken to hospital with amnesia. 

Four years on, Ruth stumbles across a newspaper photo of a celebrated pianist and is struck by the resemblance to her father. Desperate for evidence she sends him a letter, and as the pianist’s dormant memories emerge, his past unravels, revealing his true identity – as her beloved father, Joe. Ruth sets out to meet him, only to find herself plunged into an aristocratic world of sinister dark secrets. 

Can she help him escape and find a way to stay alive? 

(Source: Goodreads)

It’s books like this that don’t give you any other option than pick them up and read them. I got drawn in straight away just by reading a blurb. Historical fiction is not my first choice usually, but I really enjoy to venture out of my usual reading comfort zone and pick something different. Especially if it has such a great reviews and is written by author whose writing I haven’t had chance to experience yet.

Main reason this story felt so powerful for me would be the time setting. There are hundreds and hundreds of films or books set in this time and it’s amazing how this story still didn’t fail to be different. I had absolutely no issue to be transferred by author’s writing style right to the pit of the war. London in time of bombings might not be the best place you can imagine to be transferred to but it felt so raw and real, you kind of have to keep reading and hope that something good will eventually happen.

Story follows the Jewish family living in East London, only just getting by in time of war but living as normal life as possible. Until one night everything changes and bombs destroy present and future of this family, siblings find themselves not only without parents but also being torn apart and separated. Things happening to them, how they deal with loss and grief are all pictured so vividly, you can’t help but shed few tears, so tissues are definitely required.

After years siblings are finally reunited and start new life when war is over, Ruth stumbles upon the picture of a man, she is sure is their father. Being the eldest out of three, she takes it upon herself to track the man down and find out why would he abandon them and start a new life as a famous pianist. But everything is not as easy to work out and story unfolds more about Edward (Joe) as well as his new family. Some new ties might be too difficult to break especially if he can’t be sure who his new family actually really is.

What a fabulous novel by S.D. Mayes! So well written, full of secrets and surprises. All the pain and suffering is well balanced with happiness, love and small mercies in time of war. You realize once again that family and friends are the most important and with them you can overcome and survive anything. They drive you forward and give you hope. You learn that forgiveness is sometimes the only way forward in order to learn to bury your past and start again.

About S.D. Mayes

17090251S.D. Mayes worked as a journalist and editor for nearly twenty years before turning her hand to fiction. 

Letters to the Pianist is her first historical suspense novel, which took three years to research and write. She was inspired by her mother, Ruth’s devastating memories of being orphaned in the 1941 London blitz, wanting to create an emotional, suspenseful story, illustrating real events that conjured up the time.

She has one daughter, Isabel, and lives in a small village in Berkshire, near the river Thames, where she loves to go for long walks.

Her novel Letters to the Pianist can be purchased here.

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