May 23

Book Review: Playing for the Commandant by Suzy Zail

May 23, 2015

From Goodreads:
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?

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.

World War II is one of my favorite time periods to read about. When I heard about this new release, I knew I would need to check it out. Here are my thoughts:


  • This novel was a different take on World War II. It was interesting to hear the perspective of a teenage girl living through the horrors of Nazi occupation and life at a concentration camp.
  • I loved the incorporation of “normal” teen life – pretty dresses, dances, falling in love. Is it realistic to think someone found love in the darkest of times? I’d like to think so….
  • Based on other accounts I have read, I think the portrayal of life in a concentration camp was accurate. Zail puts a different spin on things though by portraying someone from the internment camp living a life somewhat outside of the camp.
  • I thought the characters were an accurate reflection of a variety of people during this time period. There were a wide range of characters, each reflecting a different lifestyle from the time.
  • The pacing was good, and the book was a quick read – perfect when you need a shorter novel with a great deal of substance.


  • I’m not sure how realistic certain aspects of the book are, but since I don’t know anything to the contrary, I am going to believe in the possibilities of hope, love, and innate good.

If you are looking for a quick read set during World War II, then I would definitely recommend this book!

What books do you recommend that are set in World War II?

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Posted May 23, 2015 by Lisa @ Reading, Writing, and Random Musings in category "book review


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