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And After the Fire

A Novel
Narrated by: Xe Sands, Simon Vance
Length: 12 hrs and 33 mins
Categories: Fiction, Historical
4 out of 5 stars (146 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The New York Times best-selling author of A Fierce Radiance and City of Light returns with a new powerful and passionate novel - inspired by historical events - about two women and the mysterious choral masterpiece by Johann Sebastian Bach that changes both their lives.

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 offer her an opportunity to make peace with the past.

In Berlin, Germany, in 1796, 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 200 years of history, from the 18th 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.

Weaving together the stories of Susanna and Sara, Lauren Belfer creates a majestic narrative that spans lifetimes and continents, encompassing both the best and the worst of the human spirit. The cantata's troubled, riveting journey reveals that the two women have more in common than the score, and what Susanna learns may be what finally allows her to heal and move on.

©2016 Lauren Belfer (P)2016 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Interesting but tedious

This should have been an hour shorter. The historical sections lacked clear transitions and parts could have been eliminated.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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can't wait to discuss this at book club

The only moment that i was disappointed in this story was when it ended. I wanted it to keep going. Multiple narraters makes the flip flop between past and present easier to tecognize.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Incredible tapestry of signed Bach manuscript.

Intriguing story beautifully narrated spanning several centuries reflecting the impact of Judaism on the generations involved.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Lovely story with much history

Loved the passage from past to current time and learning more about the world through this history and full story

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Bach, History, Mystery, and Jewish Heritage

A well written mystery which covers several hundred years and then the impact of a Bach Contatta on people over centuries who werevJewish and non-jewish! Well done!

1 person found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Very disappointing

I love historical fiction and the story sounded fabulous-- newly discovered Bach manuscript with controversial libretto. . But this was disappointing in almost every way it could be. The characters were utterly predictable and uninspiring stereotypes. The story plodded along, always promising, but never delivering, on a twist or a revelation or some small insight. What could have been a fascinating exploration of Bach's (and Luther's) perspectives on Jews during their respective eras, failed to rise to the evidence from the periods, and totally sidestepped any meaningful discussion of attitudes from those German renaissance and baroque eras of history. The main character was annoyingly bland, and downright irritating when she "lectured" on various topics that a more creative writer would have found a way to integrate into the narrative (under-served children, Jewish persecution, Bach's sacred music). Her erstwhile suitors were wooden and uninteresting. Finally, I idd not enjoy the narrators at all, The fake accents of various kinds seemed silly and the breathy, casual style used by Xe Sands seemed inappropriate and sometimes even difficult to understand. All in all a huge disappointment.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Interesting story

Interesting story—liked how the different story lines moved closer to one another—only issue I had with this book was one of the narrators—the female voice kept trailing off—-very hard to follow—didn’t like.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Erratic volume

The story was quite good, and one of the readers was fine and I would give him 5 stars. However I had problems with the cadence and volume of the womans's performance. It isn't possible to listen to this while someone is on the adjacent treadmill because her voice drops and rises so much that one can't adjust the volume adequately to listen comfortably. When listening otherwise it becomes necessary to back up and raise the volume frequently to know what is being said. Tedious!

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Learned a lot

An engrossing book that is informative about classical music, history, Germany, much more. Unfortunately the female voice narration was so distracting, over-acted, that I had to read the actual book to enjoy those chapters

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Too sappy, too much false history

I think the premise of the story could have been wonderful if it had been more plausible. The subjects are too sensitive to make a silly story over.