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Publisher's Summary

Audie Award Winner, Biography and Memoir, 2013

Told with the same old-fashioned narrative power as the novels of Herman Wouk, The Seamstress is the true story of Seren (Sara) Tuvel Bernstein and her survival during wartime. This powerful eyewitness account of survival, told with power and grace, will stay with listeners for years to come.

©1999 Sara Tuvel Bernstein (P)2011 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"There are many recent accounts of Holocaust victims, but this work stands alone as a testimony to personal strength and an independent spirit." ( Library Journal)

What listeners say about The Seamstress

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Overcome with Emotion

My grandfather had a premonition and fled Germany before the war. My mother was ten when they emigrated to the United States. Our family lost a lot of family and friends.

When I listened to this memoir Wanda McCaddon's voice brought back memories of my grandmother's voice. My grandmother taught me to sew.

This is a truly riveting story of one woman and her family's survival during the Hitler regime. I've read a lot about the war. I have to keep reading about it. It's part of the fabric of my people. This history must be kept alive.

I am a seamstress and sewed the whole time I listened to this audiobook. My latest quilt got wet from all the tears I shed listening to Sara Turvel's story. I'm so glad she had her story finally published.

78 people found this helpful

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Great book. Hope many more read it!

Obviously, this type of book isn't for everyone, because, even if you're generally interested, it can weigh you down a bit. I devoured it in a short time, but even then, took a few breaks just to lighten my mood. That being said, it isn't horrible in terms of violence or extreme scenes, and overall is uplifting. I really would hope it would get more coverage, because the story and the treatment of it both wonderful. The writer (or writers, more precisely) kept just the right emotional tone, where what has to be dealt with, whatever it is in the story, is being dealt with, just as you would experience it firsthand, if it were you. One forgets that at every stage in the increasing horrors that happened under the Nazis, those experiencing them only dealt with what was in front of their eyes at that moment, with no context that we have now in hindsight. More than most books of this genre, this seems to allow you to feel the moment to moment reality yourself in a way that is very engaging and satisfying. That was part of the message of the book, really, that each relationship we have, each person in themselves, is valuable, which is the essential horror of the holocaust that for that time and for those people, they rejected that concept in such a profound way.

54 people found this helpful

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Romanian Jews and the Holocaust

I gained an education on many levels while listening to this incredible book, one of the most descriptive accounts of life in concentration camps that I have ever read/heard. First of all, I did not know about Romania's involvement in WWII and that it joined with the Axis countries in the war (Germany, Japan, Italy). The persecution of the Jewish people began long before the war as young Seren and her siblings were routinely called "dirty jews" by their school mates, and it was ignored and accepted by her parents, who felt blissfully safe in Romania . . . even as the years, months and days grew near to the German invasion. I also first learned about the Hungarian invasion of Romania (near the border in Transylvania) from listening to The Seamstress. I was stunned to learn that part of Romania was split off from the rest and actually was reclaimed by Hungary, as Seren had to flee from Bucharest to her home near Transylvania, only to find it was surrounded by border guards. She got in. That was Seren. DETERMINED. She took the skills she had learned as a seamstress in Bucharest with her to Budapest, Hungary, where her blue eyes and light colored hair did not automatically mark her as a Jew. I never knew that Hungary was an Axis nation either until I listened to this book. Following Seren's journey from Romania to Hungary and then to Auschwitz in Germany, I was totally engrossed in her story. In telling it to her daughter-in-law, her biggest regret was the waste of all those years . . . not anger or bitterness . . . but what she could have done with her life if she'd had those years back. Oh, but what she DID for her sister, her future family, herself and for all humanity in surviving and LIVING through one of the darkest times in history.

35 people found this helpful

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Thankfully a happy ending to the nightmare

Would you consider the audio edition of The Seamstress to be better than the print version?

yes, because the narrator was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful and she could read it better to me than I could ever read it to myself!

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Seamstress?

I guess it would be the end of the war right before the rescue

What does Wanda McCaddon bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

her great voice and enthusiasm and expression
she gives the main character a personality and spunk

Any additional comments?

This book was published after the author died and I just wish she knew how many peoples lives she has touched with her writing. She had so much hope and endurance and positive attitude in the middle of a nightmare. She also went on and didn't dwell on her nightmare. She actually had a good life afterwards.

35 people found this helpful

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One of the most moving books...............

An incredible story of a survivor both of the holocaust and post-war Germany. And one of the most moving depictions of how the events unfolded that convinced the Jewish people to pack their valuables peacefully and surrender. There is a point in the book when Sara and her sisters dig in the dirt for tiny grass roots to eat and another where they risk their lives to steal a radish. And, you feel a small glimpse of what it must be like to experience true hunger.... I cried. I was outraged and ultimately uplifted by this one woman's courage to want to live and to do her work.

31 people found this helpful

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Slow to start; Hard to Put Down

This book contains some real nice hidden gems. I ordered the paper version when I finished. read it! Your life will be enhanced.

19 people found this helpful

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Seren Tuval, you are my hero!

The holocaust period certainly brought out the very worst in very many people. However, it also brought out the very best in others, Seren Tuval, in particular. What made this story so listenable and wonderful was Seren's personality. She exhibited such strength, such compassion, such intelligence, and such hope. There was never any question in her mind that she might not survive. There was never a moment that she felt sorry for herself. Her optimism and strength is something for us all to emulate or aspire toward.

The narrator is simply amazing and actually became Seren in my mind. I can't imagine anyone doing a better job of a narration. She nailed it perfectly.

This is a very intense story. Yet, you can come away from it with a good feeling. I am not sure how that can be, but it is true. Don't be afraid to read another holocaust story. This one is very special. For myself, I will remember this book for a long time. I am so glad I got to know Seren's story!

18 people found this helpful

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Love and survival in equal measure

What made the experience of listening to The Seamstress the most enjoyable?

Wanda McCaddon. I agree with other readers. This is the best account of life in the camps I have read. Whether it was the fact that it was from a female perspective or that love features so heavily in Sara's tale, I don't know whether it would have touched me quite as much if I had read it or it'd had another narrator. When ever I started listening, I became lost in the story, and I find that happens with all of Wanda's narrations.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Seamstress?

The behaviour of the Auschwitz survivors in the hospital after liberation. It brought home how ferociously these human beings had had to fight for their own survival. How long did it take for them to trust other human beings again?

Have you listened to any of Wanda McCaddon’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Yes. The usual fabulousness.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Not laugh nor cry but certainly sadness and relief.

Any additional comments?

I started listening again as soon as I'd finished it.

18 people found this helpful

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NOT BUYING INTO THIS PARTICULARLY STORY!

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Not as a true story. This story is too contrived. Overall it's a good emotionally charged read. I just don't believe it as an actual account. I can't find anything about Sara Tuvel Bernstein except as it refers to this book.

What could the authors have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Just call it what it is - FICTION! I don't doubt that Ms. Bernstein suffered some oppression at the hands of the Nazi's. I just don't believe that she was the only survivor among millions to have the kind of resolve - and luck - that she claims in this book.

What does Wanda McCaddon bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Wanda McCaddon is masterful as always.

Was The Seamstress worth the listening time?

Only if you think of it as either fiction or a historical account in which the author has taken considerable literary license. The story IS moving and inspiring - it's just not believable.

Any additional comments?

I've read all of the reviews both here and on Amazon.com. Only one other reviewer feels like I do. I know I'm going to take a lot of flack for this, but I wish someone had given me a less emotional review of this book. I'm black and I'm used to Jewish friends claiming to "understand the pain of slavery". Well, no! "Your blues ain't like my blues"! But I always read books about Holocaust survivors out of respect for THEIR plight. However, there was something just not right about this account. Sara seemed to always have the answer or solution to some really horrific situations while her reaction to the deaths of her family members, one by one, was like "Ho hum!" I just didn't believe that one person in millions had the survivor instincts that this writer claimed to possess. It's easy to say you've done this and that when there's no one to refute your assertions.

The story is well-written and well narrated. But when you "pull the seams apart", it just doesn't fit. There's no way to fact-check the claims of the author. Plus, she was only in that concentration camp for a few months right before the war ended. I found her account of her early life and the years leading up to her so-called "arrest" much more interesting. Living like a hunted animal with no country to call "home" had to be awful. It's when she gets to the camp and on the trains that the story falls apart. Who can go WEEKS without water while doing back-breaking work? Or eight days without food or water packed into a boxcar like sardines? One minute everyone is freezing to death inside the boxcar, then in the same week, the train is sweltering from the weather outside. While the first 75% of the book tells an interesting account, the last becomes overly dramatic and predictable. And, again, I found Sara's total apathy towards the death of her family and camp friends bordering on sociopathic. Why? Because nobody died like she claims.

Notice that Sara is the only person who repeatedly manages to "save the day" by stealing, smuggling, or hiding enough food for her companions. Under those severe and harrowing circumstances, I know I wouldn't take up with a bunch of losers who never bring anything to the table to help in the survival of the group. When Sara is given a lice-ridden coat in the camp-wide clothing swap, she somehow gets one full of paper money hidden in the lining! And she just happened to have squirreled away a needle and thread in the tightly secured camp so she can rip up the lining to get the money, then sew it back up expertly. Really? As if all of those SS guards were too stupid to notice that the already thin garment just might be a little heavy or bulky! Then she and her friends used the money for TOILET PAPER for several weeks but, again, no one in the camp, prisoners included, noticed them "Benjamins" in the crapper! You haven't wiped your butt in months and that's all you could think to do with a large amount of money? C'mon!

What I DO believe is that some opportunistic writers saw a KERNEL of a good book after meeting a Holocaust survivor, likely in her dotage. I thought this book would be a first-hand account by an actual survivor who had gone through one horrific act after another during World War II as a Jew in occupied Europe. It turned out to be a compilation of everything that could happen to several people in a "perfect storm" of terror and persecution. Kind of like "Forrest Gump Meets The Fuhrer"! There's something that just didn't pass the "smell test" for me. I almost didn't write a review because I knew others would be upset with my reaction to this book or they would say, being black, I just don't understand the plight of Jewish people. That's absolutely not true. I sympathize and empathize with the hatred endured by Jews THROUGHOUT the history of the world. How could I not when my own ancestors were oppressed, murdered, beaten, lynched, and raped for centuries as recently as the 21st century? Here, I'll just have to take the hit because I'm calling "a spade a spade" - Sara is "shoveling" it a bit deep!

16 people found this helpful

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Engrossing, gripping, powerful

What did you love best about The Seamstress?

Yes. It is the story of an unassuming young woman who, despite all the odds, survived one of the deadliest camps in Germany. It is written in such a wayt that you are amazed at her endurance, but she is portrayed as a human, not a heroine.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Saran, Joseph, Ellen and Esther

What does Wanda McCaddon bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

She had a slight eastern European accent. I know she is British, but her narration is understated and frank without being flat. I did not like her "American" accent in the end of the book, but other than that it was a great read.

13 people found this helpful

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