Book Review: Only the Beautiful by Susan Meissner

“A heartrending story about a young mother’s fight to keep her daughter, and the winds of fortune that tear them apart by the New York Times bestselling author of The Nature of Fragile Things and The Last Year of the War.”

From the Only the Beautiful Goodreads page

Title: Only the Beautiful
Author: Susan Meissner
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 400 (Kindle)
Publish Date: April 18th, 2023

My Rating: ★★★★½
Read: 4/5/2023 – 4/6/2023


Beautifully written and spectacularly researched, Only the Beautiful is everything the summary promises and more.

Mainly following the timelines of 1938 America and 1947 Austria, the book follows Rosie and Helen and their interwoven stories. In 1938, Rosie is sent away because of her misunderstood condition and a surprise pregnancy to what she assumes to be a home for unwed mothers. Years later, Helen comes to learn the truth about what happened to Rosie and the baby.

There are a lot of heavy and perhaps controversial topics in this book that I won’t mention due to spoilers. However, I urge people to look into them if they feel it’s necessary. I enjoyed reading about these dark times in history even though it was difficult at parts. There was a lot of build-up in the beginning and because of this I felt more attached to Rosie’s timeline. The second half picks up considerably, but overall, there’s not a dull moment. Despite the dark themes, the book carries a hopeful message.

Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for providing me with a free digital ARC of the book to read and review! 

Likes & Dislikes:

What I liked:

  • The research. I can’t begin to think about the horrific information the author had to endure to write this book.
  • The characters. They had a lot of personality and felt authentic.
  • The writing. I enjoy Susan Meissner’s style immensely.

What I didn’t like:

  • Though Helen’s portion of the book rounds out Rosie’s story, I think I would have preferred it if the book was entirely from Rosie’s perspective.


This might be one I’d like to reread on audio. The subject matter is daunting but, for me, there’s a bit of a disconnect when reading with my eyes. I’d like to wholly immerse myself in the plot even though it won’t be easy.

Where to buy the book:

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