Pub Writes

About the publishing Industry, editorials, and reviews

Playing for the Commandant by Suzy Zail

Posted by Caitie F on October 13, 2014

Title: Playing for the Commandant
Author: Suzy Zail
Hardcover: 256 pages
Pub Date: Oct 14, 2014
Publisher: Candlewick
Rating: ++++

Summary from pub:

A young Jewish pianist at Auschwitz, desperate to save her family, is chosen to play at the camp commandant’s house. How could she know she would fall in love with the wrong boy?

“Look after each other . . . and get home safe. And when you do, tell everyone what you saw and what they did to us.”

These are Hanna’s father’s parting words to her and her sister when their family is separated at the gates of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Her father’s words — and a black C-sharp piano key hidden away in the folds of her dress — are all that she has left to remind her of life before. Before, Hanna was going to be a famous concert pianist. She was going to wear her yellow dress to a dance. And she was going to dance with a boy. But then the Nazis came. Now it is up to Hanna to do all she can to keep her mother and sister alive, even if that means playing piano for the commandant and his guests. Staying alive isn’t supposed to include falling in love with the commandant’s son. But Karl Jager is beautiful, and his aloofness belies a secret. And war makes you do dangerous things.


Books about the Holocaust are alway hard to read, even if they are fiction, but as long as they are written, I will read them. We need to remember not just what happened, but how it happened and how humans treated other humans and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

This book is truly beautiful. It will break your heart a hundred times, but the writing and the characters are really just beautiful. Hanna is strong, smart and so loving. She takes risks for her family and tries to be strong even when it is impossible. Playing for the commandant is not easy for her or even safe – she hears all about what happened to the pianist who made a mistake. She is constantly in danger, but does what she can to save her family.

The book is full or sorrow and suspense in the worst possible way, but also has hope in the form of the others who work in the commandant’s home and even his family.Without giving too much away, not all secrets are bad ones.

Playing for the Commandant is a wonderful book with characters that make it a wonder to read. It is the perfect book for when you are in the mood for a serious historical fiction book with wonderful characters and a romance in an unexpected place.

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