#BookADay 6 – Safe Passage


Have you ever read this lovely book? 

It’s the true story of Ida and Louise Cook, who were huge opera fans and managed to leverage their love for opera and their reputation as major fans into an operation that saved dozens of Jews in the days before England and Nazi Germany formally declared war.

Ida Cook was a beloved Mills & Boon author who wrote under the name Mary Burchnell.

Now, in the book, there’s a LOT of talk about opera singers and opera, but while the star points of the story are how their courage, resourcefulness and ingenuity shepherded people and valuable objects out of Germany, other inspiring and fascinating aspects of the story are the ways and hows two young women set goals and managed to create miracles, like seeing opera shows and even sailing to America, on a very small income (to start). It’s a fascinating and inspiring peek into days gone by, lived by two special women who made them extraordinary.

A combination of faith and charisma, despite their modest means and demeanors, made them a powerful force, and there’s no question that their ability to start conversations with the people around them, and their effervescent love of the opera stars and the other fans —including a lovely interest and curiosity about the people around them, in a completely egalitarian way—helped them become popular and beloved in opera circles.

I would have loved to have seen a bit more about her writing (which mostly funded their escapades). According to the first few paragraphs of Wikipedia (read the full article here):

 Ida Cook (24 August 1904 – 22 December 1986) was a British campaigner for Jewish refugees and a romance novelist as Mary Burchell.

Ida Cook and her sister Mary Louise Cook (1901–1991) rescued Jews from the Nazis during the 1930s. The sisters helped 29 people escape, funded mainly by Ida’s writing. In 1965, the Cook sisters were honored as Righteous among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority in Israel.[1]

Between 1936 and 1985, Ida Cook wrote 112 romance novels as Mary Burchell for Mills & Boon (many of which were later republished by Harlequin). She helped to found, and from 1966 to 1986 was the second president of, the Romantic Novelists’ Association. In 1950 she wrote her autobiography, We Followed Our Stars, later re-edited and expanded as Safe Passage, which is currently in print.

The book was originally released in the 50s under the title Following Our Stars (which actually is a better title given the arc).

I read it probably 10 years ago or so, and highly recommend. It’s unlike anything you’ve likely read before – but it’s a thoroughly delightful and will leave you charmed and entertained.

You can also find Mary Burchell in digital form @Amazon here.

It looks like A SONG BEGINS is only $.99.

The sound of success…

Anthea Benton is shocked when her voice teacher, Miss Sharon, tells her that she has progressed beyond what she can teach her.

In order to progress as a singer, Anthea needs to leave her small town and find a professional tutor. 

But with a sick father, money is tight in the Benton household.

Then, Anthea sees an advertisement for a singing contest with a £500 first prize – this could be the answer to her prayers.

At the contest, Anthea knows she is better than any of the other contestants.

She would have won…if not for Oscar Warrender, one of the most celebrated opera conductors in the world, who made sure she didn’t win the contest.

So when a letter arrives informing Anthea that Warrender wants her to come to London and be his prize, and only, pupil, Anthea is shocked to say the least.

But this could be her big chance and she just cannot turn it down.

She will need every ounce of strength and intelligence she possesses to withstand the training and hard work to become a successful opera singer.

But will Anthea and Oscar’s turbulent relationship ruin her chances for success?

And what else will she discover about herself along the way?

A Song Begins is the first book in the charming Warrender Saga.