Recipient of a 2016 National Jewish Book Award
In the ruins of Germany in 1945, at the end of World War II, American soldier Henry Sachs takes a souvenir, an old music manuscript, from a seemingly deserted mansion and mistakenly kills the girl who tries to stop him.
In America in 2010, Henry’s niece, Susanna Kessler, struggles to rebuild her life after she experiences a devastating act of violence on the streets of New York City. When Henry dies soon after, she uncovers the long-hidden music manuscript. She becomes determined to discover what it is and to return it to its rightful owner, a journey that will challenge her preconceptions about herself and her family’s history—and also offer her an opportunity to finally make peace with the past.
In Berlin, Germany, in 1783, amid the city’s glittering salons where aristocrats and commoners, Christians and Jews, mingle freely despite simmering anti-Semitism, Sara Itzig Levy, a renowned musician, conceals the manuscript of an anti-Jewish cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach, an unsettling gift to her from Bach’s son, her teacher. This work and its disturbing message will haunt Sara and her family for generations to come.
Interweaving the stories of Susanna and Sara, and their families, And After the Fire traverses over two hundred years of history, from the eighteenth century through the Holocaust and into today, seamlessly melding past and present, real and imagined. Lauren Belfer’s deeply researched, evocative, and compelling narrative resonates with emotion and immediacy.
Praise for And After the Fire
—The New Yorker
“A different species of suspense tale…. Evocative, deeply researched…. Dazzle[s] while delving into dark places.”
—Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air
“Her virtuoso novel blends historical fiction, literary thriller, love story and musicology…The novel swells with life’s great themes — love and death, family and faith — and the insistent, dark music of loss.”
“This is finely written historical fiction layered with richly detailed characters and moral complexity.”
—BBC, Ten Books To Read In May
“This captivating novel is based on real historical events that the author has skillfully woven into an unforgettably haunting story. I found And After the Fire very difficult to put down. As in her first book City of Light, Belfer grabs the reader from the beginning and holds on until the last sentence.”
—Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore
“‘And After the Fire’ is a bold and hugely ambitious novel with the transfixing appeal of a best-seller.”
—The Buffalo News
“Belfer has created a fascinating historical novel and poignant love story that will open the eyes and ears of music lovers and please those who enjoy a graceful, spellbinding tale pondering important questions.”
—Library Journal, Starred Review
“Told with lyrical beauty…the novel is like the lost cantata itself, revealing our capacity for darkness, redeemed by the power of unconditional love. A dazzling, transformative novel.”
—Historical Novel Society
“An immersive, page-turning story emboldened by historical fact and a rich imagination.”
“An invaluable piece of music poses ethical questions in this compelling blend of fact and fiction…Based on impressive research, this remarkable novel spans centuries and continents, touching finally on the Holocaust and serving as a paean to Bach’s music…Absorbing historical fiction.”
—Booklist, starred review
“A remarkably suspenseful story. A literary thriller in the tradition of A.S. Byatt’s Possession.”
“An intellectual thriller and a beautiful love story. What if you came into possession of an historical artifact with the power to alter history and change the world? Sure to establish Belfer as a fearless, provocative writer. Impossible to put down.”
—Sara Gruen, #1 New York Times bestselling author of At the Water’s Edge and Water for Elephants
“Brilliant and mesmerizing…. Since reading And After the Fire, I’ve been trumpeting it as the best novel I’ve had the pleasure of reading in years.”
—Elinor Lipman, New York Times bestselling author of Then She Found Me