Author: Susan Meissner
Published by: Berkley Books on Apr. 18, 2023
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: ARC, eBook
Source: Uplit Reads
Book Rating: 10/10
California, 1938—When she loses her parents in an accident, sixteen-year-old Rosanne is taken in by the owners of the vineyard where she has lived her whole life as the vinedresser’s daughter. She moves into Celine and Truman Calvert’s spacious house with a secret, however—Rosie sees colors when she hears sound. She promised her mother she’d never reveal her little-understood ability to anyone, but the weight of her isolation and grief prove too much for her. Driven by her loneliness she not only breaks the vow to her mother, but in a desperate moment lets down her guard and ends up pregnant. Banished by the Calverts, Rosanne believes she is bound for a home for unwed mothers, and having lost her family she treasures her pregnancy as the chance for a future one. But she soon finds out she is not going to a home of any kind, but to a place far worse than anything she could have imagined.
Austria, 1947—After witnessing firsthand Adolf Hitler’s brutal pursuit of hereditary purity—especially with regard to “different children”—Helen Calvert, Truman’s sister, is ready to return to America for good. But when she arrives at her brother’s peaceful vineyard after decades working abroad, she is shocked to learn what really happened nine years earlier to the vinedresser’s daughter, a girl whom Helen had long ago befriended. In her determination to find Rosanne, Helen discovers that while the war had been won in Europe, there are still terrifying battles to be fought at home.
Poignant, insightful, and incredibly absorbing!
Only the Beautiful is a heart-wrenching, compelling tale that sweeps you away to California between the late 1930s to late 1940s and into the lives of Rosanne, a young girl who, after falling pregnant, is sent by her wards to an institute to not only have her baby removed from her care and adopted out when it’s born, but also where for the good of society they perform forced sterilization, and Helen Calvert, a kind, generous woman who after spending the entirety of the war overseas trying to save children with disabilities from Hitler’s horrifying T4 program returns home only to discover she has a niece she’s never met and thus a new mission to find where she ended up and provide her with the best life possible.
The prose is eloquent and expressive. The characters are genuine, sympathetic, and vulnerable. And the plot is a masterfully woven, captivating tale about life, loss, love, heartbreak, courage, hope, manipulation, power, ethics, morality, motherhood, and the unconscionable theory of eugenics.
Overall, Only the Beautiful is an emotional, heartbreaking, beautifully written tale by Meissner that immerses you so thoroughly into the lives, feelings, and personalities of the characters you never want it to end. It is, without a doubt, one of my favourite novels of the year, and it really shouldn’t be missed.
This novel is available now.
Pick up a copy from your favourite retailer or from one of the following links.
Thank you to Uplit Reads for gifting me a copy in exchange for an honest review.