The Opera Sisters Blog Tour, Review, and Author Interview

Tuesday, September 13, 2022


Based on the true story of the Cook sisters, who smuggled valuables out of 1930s Nazi Germany to finance a daring, secret operation to help Jews find hope for a new life in England. British sisters Ida and Louise Cook enjoy their quiet lives in south London. Ida writes romance novels, and Louise works as a secretary. In the evenings, the sisters indulge in their shared love for opera, saving their money to attend performances throughout England and Europe, becoming well-known by both performers and fellow opera lovers.

When Hitler seizes power in 1933, he begins passing laws that restrict the rights and lives of German Jews. The sisters continue visiting the German opera houses, but soon, Jewish members of the opera community covertly approach the sisters, worried that they will be stripped of their wealth and forced to leave their homes and the country.

Ida and Louise vow to help, but how can two ordinary working-class women with limited means make a difference?

Together with their beloved opera community, the sisters devise a plan to personally escort Jewish refugees from Germany to England. The success of the plan hinges on Ida and Louise’s ability to smuggle contraband jewelry and furs beneath the watchful eyes of the SS soldiers guarding various checkpoints. But how many trips can they make before someone blows a whistle? Or before the final curtain falls on Germany’s borders?

The Opera Sisters is a riveting and inspiring novel of two unlikely heroines whose courage and compassion gave hope to many Jews desperate to escape Nazi persecution.


MARIANNE MONSON received her MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and primarily writes on topics related to women’s history. She has taught English and Creative Writing at the community college and university levels and is the author of twelve books for children and adults, including the novel Her Quiet Revolution and her nonfiction works Frontier Grit and Women of the Blue and Gray.

She is the founder of The Writer’s Guild, a literary nonprofit, and writes from a 100-year-old house in Astoria, Oregon.

Visit her at


The story of the Opera Sisters was very interesting. It hit on some lesser-known facts and history of World War II. I also felt like I could apply some of the fears and dilemmas that people were facing today, and it helped me to understand more about refugees and people that are stuck in countries that are facing a crisis. 

The sisters came alive through the storytelling. I felt like I got an understanding of who these women were and the risks that they were taking. I also enjoyed that it was overall a fresh take on World War II. The only downside to the book is that there were some parts that I felt like the author was trying to cram as much as she could about the other events that were going on in World War II and it distracted from the story. Most readers are familiar with the overall events of World War II, and I would have liked to see more detail on the sisters and the refugees. 

Overall, I felt like it was a worthwhile read. I've read a lot of different books on World War II, and it gave me new insight into the crisis that was happening in Germany and a different take on how refugees were fleeing the country. The author did a good job at painting a picture of the tragedies that occurred when refugees couldn't escape, the fear and danger during that time, and the joy when refugees made it safely out of the country and were able to restart their lives in safety. To learn more about this book, click here.


LIFE IS WHAT IT'S CALLED - How did you learn about this true story?

MARIANNE MONSON - I learned about it when my editor sent me a magazine article about Ida and Louise Cook. I'd been wanting to write a World War 2 novel for sometime, and this seemed like a great opportunity. I fell in love with their sweet sister relationship and the way they drew strength from each other, which isn't a relationship that is often portrayed in fiction.

LIFE IS WHAT IT'S CALLED -What did you find most inspiring when you researched this story?

MARIANNE MONSON - I loved the way the Cook sisters came from a very ordinary background, but their passions and ability to care led them to do remarkable things. I was inspired by the way they leaned on each other, their community, and their art to survive the horrific events unfolding around them.

LIFE IS WHAT IT'S CALLED -What do you want readers to gain from this story?

MARIANNE MONSON - I hope they see clear parallels to the modern era we find ourselves in and feel inspired to follow the Cooks' lead and find a way to stay involved even when circumstances are dire.

LIFE IS WHAT IT'S CALLED -What have you gained by writing this story?

MARIANNE MONSON - So much inspiration. I'd love to be like Ida Cook when I "grow up" someday. Her ability to truly love people is astounding. She used that love to change people's lives permanently--to change the lives and trajectories of whole families. She changed the course of history for a number of people, and she did it by being fully and only herself. I was also deeply inspired by the Jewish refugees, by their tenacity, their perseverance, their ability to reinvent themselves and rebuild their lives and communities in a completely different culture. Some of those who escaped turned around and enlisted--went back to Europe to take up arms against Hitler. That kind of resilience is remarkable.

LIFE IS WHAT IT'S CALLED -What writing projects are you working on next?

MARIANNE MONSON - I'm working on a YA immigration novel that I'm co-writing with a colleague. I'm really excited about the project. It explores the Guatemalan Civil War and its impact, and is my first book that is set partially in Oregon, where I've lived for the last 25 years.

LIFE IS WHAT IT'S CALLED -What is your background in writing?

MARIANNE MONSON - I decided to become a writer when I was seven, and I never changed my mind. I earned an English Lit degree and then worked at a publishing house, in order to understand the business aspect of it. I earned an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, which is where I worked with some remarkable mentors and truly got serious about the work. Since then, I've authored and edited fourteen published books as well as numerous magazine and newspaper articles and poems. I'm still a regular journal writer. At the end of the day, I write because I love it, and I couldn't live without it. Books have been my best friends through the most difficult times in my life and it's an honor to think words I've written might be that for someone else.

LIFE IS WHAT IT'S CALLED -What do you want readers to know about this story?

MARIANNE MONSON - I'd like them to know that they can expect a World War 2 story that is different from those they've heard before and one that has remarkable parallels to today's world: rising inflation, the allure of populist leaders, mounting political strife, and rising numbers of refugees--it is easy to see our own era in these pages.

LIFE IS WHAT IT'S CALLED - How does this book stand apart from other WWII historical fiction books?

MARIANNE MONSON - There are so many books about WW2 out there that it's daunting to attempt to contribute to the literature on the era. I feel that The Opera Sisters examines some of the lesser known events of the era (like the hyperinflation in the Weimar republic, the Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden in New York City, the origins behind Kristallnacht, and the battle of Warsaw), and shows the Cooks' work contextualized against this backdrop.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that help support this blog. This post was done in cooperation with the publisher. I received a free copy of the book to review, however, these are my honest opinions.

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