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The Piano War

Nominated for the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa (“Africa’s Man Booker”)

Nominated for the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award

August 1939. On her summer break from her studies at the Royal Academy of Music, the exquisitely talented young South African pianist, Olda Mehr, and her parents, leave London to visit relatives in Eastern Europe. A dreamy holiday descends into nightmare when Germany invades Poland, and the Mehrs find themselves, as Jews, caught up in Hitler’s Holocaust. For Olda, Gestapo torture and the threat of the gas chamber are relieved by letters from her boyfriend, the artist-musician-doctor, Bennie Hermer, now a captain in the South African army fighting in North Africa. After the Allied disaster at Tobruk, Ben is imprisoned in the dusty, dysentery-ridden POW camp at Benghazi. Via infrequent Red Cross messages the couple keep their love, and themselves, alive, until extraordinary daring on both their parts leads to a denouement so incredible that Time Magazine would write it up within days, calling it: ‘Love, Believe it or not’. This extraordinary and moving story brings to life the events of World War II, showing how ordinary people rise to the challenge of extraordinary times.

Publishing information:

Cape Town | David Philip Publishers, 2003


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“Graeme Friedman’s meticulous research offers a fund of fascinating insights and detail.”

Mail & Guardian

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Out of pure fear I read The Piano War in one night, scared that these two lovers would never see each other again. And immediately the next day began reading again from the beginning because the book is precisely as Alessandro Baricco says, ‘A perfect balm. The fixed exactitude of reading as a suture for terror.’ ... Friedman’s historical research is above suspicion ... As a reconstruction of the love and pain of ordinary people during wartime, The Piano War is a gripping, suspenseful work.”

Die Burger

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“Graeme Friedman has captured the intimacyand pathos of true love trying to survive in a world at war. He writes with sensitivityand understanding, an incredible but true love story that will capture your heart.”

East London Daily Despatch

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“It’s a love story – the most remarkable and gripping I have come across in my newspaper career.”

The Star

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The Piano War is the most remarkable true love story that I have come across in more than twenty years as a romance writer. An epic, captivating story.”

Sarie Magazine

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The Piano War is a tale of love and destiny, impressive in its geographical sweep and detail.”

 Sunday Independent

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“The story of their individual survivalagainst the odds, including Hermer’s escapefrom a POW camp, and their completely coincidental meeting in Cairo and eventual marriage, is the stuff of a breath-catching thriller.”

Cape Argus

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“A profoundly moving story and superb testimony to the insights, understanding and careful research of its masterful author.”

The Herald

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