Australian violinist Phoebe Raye sees her dreams of romance and revenge dashed when Nazi Germany annexes Austria in 1938. Engaging first person account of Sydney and Vienna between the wars. Extras include book club discussion topics, recommended films, and further reading.
An Australian odyssey: vengeance and love, war and peace
Annette Young's new book By Violence Unavenged is a dramatic saga set in the early decades of the twentieth century. It starts with a letter - the entire novel is framed within the context of an answer being given by the main character Phoebe to her half-brother, Roderick, who asks questions about her life. As with most such questions - it is not so easy. Phoebe then tells the story of her life which has involved several continents, uncovering her past, her identity and their family so deeply impacted by war.
Writers are sensitive to 'pace' whether Frederick Forsyth or Charles Dickens, and pace of this story spanning several continents unites the breadth of war and individual lives in a majestic polyphony of broader historical events, and the delicate lines of Phoebe's life. Clearly, the book is written by a musician, a kind of polyphonic saga, with the interweaving themes of war, history, suffering and the search for truth.
The unfolding of the saga, the interweaving of history and the personal invite comparisons with writers who chose the wider tableaux - Henry Handel Richardson and Martin Boyd. This author's unique touch here is in interlacing the personal with the political, and arousing questions about when will the macabre dance of war and vengeance, beauty and loss, life and death, will end. This remains the unanswered question not only for Phoebe, but for all survivors of the twentieth century.
Annette Young sees the grander horizons of those who have memories of war and a former life, without losing the notion of the 'Australianness' of the account. I leave the reader to reflect on how Phoebe will cope with the ever more bewildering events around her, in this rich re-creation of the enigmatic pre-war era. The novel's descriptive panache, engaging pace and memorable characters make for very interesting reading, arousing great anticipation for the next volume.
Australian novelist Annette Young's most recent offering, By Violence Unavenged, the first volume in the trilogy In the Heart of Kings, is a spectacular read.
Young is a writer who obviously brings much life experience to the literary field. Her understanding of human nature and of history allow her a wide command of the conflict leading immediately to the Second World War and encompassing the Anschluss in Austria. Interwoven with descriptions of rampant Anti Semitism heaped on Austrian Jews in Vienna and including the heroine in the story, Australian Phoebe Raye, there is a string of romantic interests which add colour to the backdrop of bleak Nazi cruelty and inhumanity.
Extremely well researched, historically, musically and linguistically, the story is a pleasure to read, though it is fraught with confronting and at times overwhelmingly gutting drama. Every chapter is full to the brim with action and it is hard to put this book down. Be prepared to read it into the wee hours of the morning. The flavour of the period lingers long after reading By Violence Unavenged.
The second and third volumes are eagerly anticipated.
‘The reader is impressed by the depth and breadth of her knowledge not only of Austria, but of the entire European (and Turkish) background to the Great War and its aftermath… a beautifully written novel of great inventiveness and originality. It is a pleasure to read Annette Young’s prose and to enjoy her wide learning.’