Johnnie Alexander Donley writes stories of suspense, intrigue, and romance set in World War II. Where Treasure Hides, spanning the years from 1939 to 1945, is about a gifted artist, her father's greatest masterpiece, and the Nazi officer obsessed with having them both. This debut novel won the 2011 American Christian Fiction Writers' Genesis contest in historical fiction.
Description:Artist Alison Schuyler spends her time working in her family’s renowned art gallery, determined to avoid the curse that has followed the Schuyler clan from the Netherlands to America and back again. She’s certain that true love will only lead to tragedy—that is, until a chance meeting at Waterloo station brings Ian Devlin into her life. Drawn to the bold and compassionate British Army captain, Alison begins to question her fear of love as World War II breaks out, separating the two and drawing each into their own battles. While Ian fights for freedom on the battlefield, Alison works with the Dutch Underground to find a safe haven for Jewish children and priceless pieces of art alike. But safety is a luxury war does not allow.
I enjoyed this book very much and consider it to be an excellent debut novel. I wasn't very familiar with either the kindertransport (immigration of Jewish children) or the role art played during the war, so these themes were very interesting to me.
While not always comfortable, I liked that Ms. Donley doesn't shy away from the realities of war. The Germans parachuting into Rotterdam as the occupation begins, the bombing of Alison's family home and the resulting loss - these scenes were described in such a vivid way that I could feel their grief.
With an opening set in a Waterloo train station in 1939, Ms. Donley creates a haunting and emotional scene between Ian, Alison, and a Jewish child named Josef that stays with you throughout the story. For Ian, "An ordinary trip to London had turned extraordinary by an immigrant boy with a violin and a young lady with a sketch pad. And his heart would never be the same again."
An interesting theme is the contrast between superstition and Christian faith. Alison is afraid to risk love because of her fear that the "family fate" will befall Ian. In the words of Alison's father, "Love your art or love that soldier. But don't think you can have them both. It's our greed that destroys us. . . . That's the truth behind the cursed 'family fate.' Thinking that because we're Van Schuylers, we can have it all. Take it all, and you'll wind up with nothing."
The part that I didn't care for was Nazi officer Theodor's pursuit of Alison, yet it was essential to the story. His words to Alison were chilling: "You have been chosen for a great privilege . . . the perfection of the human race." I also had mixed feelings about the epilogue, which briefly describes a scene five years later, in 1950. It packs a shocking surprise, is probably realistic, and hints at a sequel, but I hated to see the story end that way.
Discussion questions are included at the end, which would be very helpful for book clubs or group reads. I would also like to suggest that a map of Europe be placed at the beginning, as this would add great support and understanding of the characters' movements throughout the novel.
Although this story could have been a little shorter, I found it to be an engrossing read overall and will look for future books by Ms. Donley. I highly recommend Where Treasure Hides to those who enjoy historical fiction.
For more information, visit Ms. Donley's website:http://johnniedonley.com/
This book was provided by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., as part of the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my honest review.