“My idea of comfort is a good lamp to read by.” Lucien Rees Roberts
The Prague Sonata by Bradford Morrow
This is a fabulous novel by an author I have not read before, but I’m about to start reading The Forgers which Morrow published in 2014. I think I’m really onto something with this guy! It took him over 12 years to write The Prague Sonata, so you know its well done.
The Prague Sonata is set primarily in Prague, of course from World War 1 to contemporary times. The plot follows Otylie Bartosova’s life during the turbulent 20th century. This sonata written by an anonymous 18th century composer was given to Otylie by her father during WW1. To keep it safe during the German occupation of WW2, she divides it into its three movements, giving a movement each to her resistance soldier-husband, her best friend Irene and keeping one for herself.
So how does the middle movement end up in NYC in 2000 in the hands of musicologist Meta Taverner? Does Meta really think she can locate the other two movements and then determine the composer? Could it really be written by Beethoven or Mozart? Is this wild-goose chase really worth uprooting her life and moving to Prague?
I finished this novel several weeks ago, and I still miss these characters, especially Otylie and Garrett. Morrow’s descriptions of people, places and music are absolutely beautiful, yet the pace never bogs down. Classical music lovers, this is a must-read for you, but it will be enjoyed by all who love historical fiction.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Andrew Less, the main character and struggling author is frantically searching for seemingly valid excuses to regret his long-time exboyfriend’s wedding. Basically he decides to accept several literary engagements that are scattered around the globe- from Paris to Berlin to Morocco to India to Japan. Andrew Less is a “Keystone Cop” who goes from one amusing mishap to another. What makes him so endearing is that he is such a worry-wart. I come from a long line of worry-warts, and Andrew almost takes the cake! Yet in spite of all his worrying, he maneuvers life with grace and humility. This 2018 Pulitzer winner as a great pool-side read.
The Overstory by Richard Powers
I’ve never read a book quite like The Overstory. A book blurb says, “A monumental novel about reimagining our place in the living world by one of our most ‘prodigiously talented’ novelist.” The format is fascinating in how Powers splits up the book in different fables about various individuals who have life-changing experiences with trees and how these experiences shape their lives. For Mimi, it’s the mulberry in the backyard that symbolically honors the silk made by her Chinese ancestors. For Nick, it’s the elm growing in the yard of his inherited farmhouse in the Midwest that was planted by his great grandfather. Their family elm flourished while the elms died off by blight in the northeast. All the book’s characters feel a deep attachment to creation through their special trees, except Neelay.
Neelay falls out of his tree as a boy and is now a wheel-chair bound paraplegic IT whiz. He is a mega-wealthy developer and owner of a virtual reality video game conglomerate. His games are so realistic he spends most of his waking hours in a reality of his own making. Neelay reminds me of Jake Sully, the paraplegic vet in James Cameron’s movie Avatar. Both characters can live and move in their virtual realities. Both rebel against their cruel realities. Neelay has some redemption in the end and though it seems a little disjointed, it’s welcomed all the same.
Powers wonderfully and believably brings these various people together to try and save one of America’s last virgin forests in the American Northwest. It ought to be a Pulitzer winner in my humble opinion. It’s disturbing and thought provoking in all the ways a good novel should be.
#fiction #bradfordmorrow #andrewseangreer #richardpowers #thepraguesonata