This is another delightful novel from Eva Ibbotson. She grew up in pre-World War II Vienna. Because her family was Jewish, they escaped to England. The Star of Kazan reflects her love of Austria and her dread of Germany. The observant reader will notice the presence of early Nazi philosophy in her writing.
Annika is an orphan with a mysterious past. Two servants discovered her as infant abandoned in a mountainside chapel. They brought her home and raised in her in the servant’s quarters of a grand house. (think Downton Abbey)
Early on Annika delights in the domestic arts, learning at an early age to make gourmet meals and keep house. She is happy but she often wonders about her “real mother”
Annika delights in her friendship with the lady across the street, the unwanted aunt of a dutiful family. Annika enjoys hearing the older lady’s stories about her days touring in Europe with the theatre. When she dies, she leaves Annika a trunk full of theatre props and costume jewelry, or so she thinks, but a scheming woman in Germany knows better.
While Annika has often fantasized about her mother’s return, she is unprepared when Edeltraut Von Tannenburg knocks on her door and insists on taking her to Germany. Annika always dreamed that her mother would come for her but she never thought about saying goodbye to all the people she loves in Vienna.
Annika’s new home in Germany is a dark and forbidding mansion. It is bitterly cold inside and out. . The walls are covered with dark heavy hangings embroidered with battle scenes. The rugs on the floor are threadbare and the drapes faded. She is baffled when her mother insists that she is never to cook or do housework.
Then it gets worse. Annika is sent away to a boarding school called Grossenfluss for “daughters of the nobility” so she can be trained to serve the Fatherland. She is assigned to be pupil 127. (No one will say what happened to pupil 126.) She is issued a uniform and assigned to a room with thirty iron beds covered with gray blankets The school is run by Fraulein Von Donner, the only woman in Germany who had received “The Order of the Closed Fist.”
This is a great adventure story with lively characters and crafty villains. There are some dark moments but in Ibbotson’s world, the good are rewarded and the evil are punished.
Recommended for fourth grade and up.