A winning piece of historical fiction. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.
NOTE: First, full disclosure. I gained early access to this book with the understanding that I would write an impartial review.
I requested that access because I read a lot about the two world wars and the book’s description indicated it was related to Prague during World War II.
PRAGUE SONATA is a great read! It’s suspenseful, has interesting and multi-dimensional characters and takes the reader deep inside the world of professional musicians and musicologists. One of the novel’s main characters is an old music score that just might turn out to be extremely valuable.
As it turns out, the story is only tangentially related to Prague during World War II. It’s much more focused on the passion people often have for music. There are two women central to the plot:
• One is a young Czech woman, Otylie, who inherited the mysterious musical score as a precious legacy from her father. And she is determined to keep it out of the hands of the occupying Nazis. She divides the score into its three movements, holds onto one, gives another to her best friend, and gives the last third to her husband, just as he is about to disappear into the Czech underground. Otylie hopes the score of the sonata will provide a link to help these three people reunite when the war ends.
• The second woman is Meta, a pianist whose promising career ascent was cut short by a car accident. Redirecting her energy into the world of musicology, she happens upon one piece of the sonata, decades after Otylie divided the score. Something about the music intrigues her so deeply that Meta leaves her life in New York in order to search for the other two missing movements.
Along the way — traveling to Prague, London, and several midwest states — she relies on guidance from a former teacher-mentor, as her quest to hunt down the sonata’s missing pieces leads her to survivors of the war, former collaborators, unscrupulous music experts, and a struggling free-lance journalist who smells a good story.
The novel moves back and forth in time, slowly unraveling both Meta’s search and Otylie’s life. At times the back and forth felt a little clunky, sometimes too abrupt, other times the switch came in an awkward place. And a few new characters were introduced quite late in the book.
It is obvious that the author did quite a bit of research on musicology. And when any author approaches writing a novel with a particular knowledge base, it’s often difficult to find the right mix of just enough detail to make the book authentic and interesting without that detail becoming distracting or tiresome. There were moments when I felt Morrow crossed the line into the realm of pedagogy — too eager to include some obscure detail that was of minimal interest or relevance to the plot. But that did not wind up interfering in my overall enjoyment of the book.
More about the author, Bradford Morrow.