The Viennese Dressmaker

A Haunting Story of Wartime Vienna

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
326 Pages
Reviewed on 06/27/2022
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite

Christina Lehmann is at the height of her career; she’s Austria’s leading couturier and her creations are much sought after, even by the invasive Nazi force. It’s Vienna, 1938, and the world she once knew and loved is crumbling all around her. Close friends and colleagues are disappearing or being brutally murdered, all because they’re Jewish. Even her lover, Matt, has Jewish ancestry and his life is in jeopardy. When so many people she loves confront the Nazi oppression head-on, Christina is faced with a difficult decision to survive, a decision that will definitely put her in harm’s way but will also make her look like a traitor to those opposed to the Nazi occupation and horrific deeds.

Kathryn Gauci’s historical fiction novel, The Viennese Dressmaker: A Haunting Story of Wartime Vienna, brings to light some of the horrific events of the Nazi occupation in Vienna. The plot follows one woman’s plight, Christina, a woman of distinction in Viennese society. Interestingly, the story begins with the events of the horrible Kristallnacht, the mass annihilation of Viennese Jews, including one of Christina’s top dressmakers. The event is described from the perspective of the Jewish dressmaker’s daughter who witnessed her home’s invasion and her mother’s brutal murder. The shocking revelation to both the reader and, historically, the people of Vienna in 1938, was that no one was safe, especially people of Jewish ancestry.

The plot intensifies as Christina must choose between her part Jewish, artist lover and the Nazi who will do anything to make her love him instead. Added to the horrors are the many friends and colleagues she tries to save and the pain of learning about the ones she couldn’t save. The story is told with utmost attention to historical facts and details and the reader is instantly engrossed in the drama. With a strong female character (Christina), this powerful story will remain in the minds of readers for some time, in the same way that works like Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See are both spellbinding and painfully realistic. Stunningly sublime and horrific, stupendous, and powerfully driven.