Prague Sonata-Bradford Morrow   Leave a comment

This is a fiction book I received from netgalley. Their policy is that I was to read and present a review of to the publisher, usually before publication.
The book is to be published on Oct 3rd 2017. The author is Bradford Morrow, a professor at Bard University and the publisher and editor of Conjuctions literary magazine for over 25 years, for which he has received an award. He has written several other novels and also written for children.
The story revolves around the manuscript of an 18th Century piano sonata. At the beginning of the novel it is owned by a young woman, Otaylie, given to her by her father, who believed it to be an undiscovered masterpiece and very valuable. It was the one inheritance he left to her. She is living at Prague with her husband, when it is invaded by the Nazis just prior to WW2. Her husband working for the Czech resistance, goes into hiding, and Otaylie tears her most treasured possession into 3 pieces, and gives 2 away to be kept for safe keeping until after the war, so that the Nazis cannot acquire it.
Interspersed with this story, we meet Meta Taverner, a musicologist, who for her 30th birthday present is given a very unusual present. She is taken by her best friend to meet Irena, an old Czech lady with an intriguing story to tell. Meta learns that Irena’s best friend left her one movement of a piano sonata to keep safely until it could be returned to her after the war had ended.
Irena gives Meta the precious section of manuscript and the mission to reunite the pieces and return them to Otaylie. Meta’s journey takes her first to Prague, where she makes new friends, and discovers a dedication to her quest. She also makes some enemies along the way, a fellow musicologist, who has no altruism, merely sees fame and fortune in claiming the sonata for himself.
The journey continues to England, in a middle of the night escape from Prague and then finally back to the USA as everything comes full circle and resolutions are found.
As a musician, I loved all of the musical references, which were all accurate. The concept fascinated me and kept me interested, I didn’t need a love story or aspects of a baddie trying to spoil things, but they didn’t harm the plot either.
The postmodern pattern of jumping between stories, worked very well in this book, reminding me of how musical subjects work and develop themselves during a sonata.
The authors understanding of the mind of a musician and the power of music was very good and added a lot to the novel.
Prague itself becomes a character in the novel. The comparisons between Prague now and that of before and during the Nazi and communist occupation are interesting. I found the sections concerning the 2nd world war as it affected Prague, particularly interesting, although the involvement of Otaylie’s husband with Heydrich’s death was a little predictable perhaps.
I found the book very readable, and in places difficult to put down. I would recommend this book, particularly to someone interested in Prague or music.

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Posted October 2, 2017 by dianne7 in book review

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