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Novel set in 1930s VIENNA

17th June 2024

The Two Loves of Sophie Strom by Sam Taylor, novel set in 1930s VIENNA.

Two stories, one life – but Sliding Doors this isn’t!

The Two Loves of Sophie Strom by Sam Taylor, set in 1930s Vienna, is not for the faint-hearted. At the core of the thread is 13-year-old Jewish boy Max who survives a house fire – after which the tale morphs into two separate but parallel stories and Max’s life splits into two.

Story one centres on orphaned Max, who is hideously disfigured in the fire but is adopted by family friends (non-Jewish) who also happen to be the parents of his nemesis, Karl, with whom he has to share a bedroom. The Schattens turn Max into a true Ayran boy named Hans who attends the local Musikgymnasium and starts hanging around with cool girl Paula.

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Story two sees Max save his parents and they continue to live their lives as normal, while facing the cruel world that is pre-war Austria. Before the fire, Max has a brief encounter with a beautiful girl called Sophie and, when he attends the local Musikgymnasium, this friendship turns into something deeper.

As the two boys negotiate life during a grim period in history, Sophie’s character becomes more complex, exacerbated by the fact she chooses someone else to marry. When Max is detained by the Nazis, her lack of compassion for him is hard to stomach and any feelings of kinship with her fall by the wayside.

But ultimately, it’s Sophie’s role in the two boys’ lives that is key. Max/Hans is forced into choices that will shape his – and Sophie’s – life. It’s an intriguing story of cruelty, tragedy, choice and life-affirming love and shows how fate can play such a vital part in the shape of one’s journey.

You may be tempted to give up reading half way in but don’t – you’ll be pleasantly surprised as this parallel universe comes to a fitting and unpredictable end.

Val for the TripFiction Team

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Catch our reviewer Val on Twitter X @valproctor

Catch the author on Twitter X @LouiseWriter 

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