This is a beautifully written novel, with a diverse cast of complex characters, vivid descriptions of exotic port cities, and (at times almost excruciating) suspense. I very much liked that the prologue started at the end of the journey which kept me guessing and constantly trying to work out what was ultimately going to happen on the voyage itself. The portraits of the characters are so real and relatable. As the novel progressed there were times my stomach was in knots because I was furious at the heroine's lack of resolve in speaking up for herself and what was right. But I understand that her weakness comes from her social class in relating to those in positions of authority and also from the naïvety of--or even willing-blindness to--what is happening in Europe. Obviously the reader/listener knows about the horrors Hitler will inflict and so the various characters' reactions from complacent indifference to abject racism fill one with dread.
This book is so many things, I don't want to give the impression that it HAS A MESSAGE in a patronizing or clumsy way. Rather, I appreciated how subtly this theme resonated with the big questions in our world now, and, like Lily, we may struggle to decide when to speak out or defend people on the margins--because it is right, even if dangerous or unpopular to do so.
Katherine Manners reads beautifully, painting descriptions into life. I enjoyed her various dialects and portrayals, especially of Maria. I found Eliza's American accent grating, but that is probably due to the character's nature. Rhys describes her voice as "hard" and "brittle," and Manners captures the quality.