THE PRAGUE SONATA BY BRADFORD MORROW (Atlantic Monthly Press)

The Prague Sonata

From the critically acclaimed author Bradford Morrow, a literary quest novel that travels from Nazi-occupied Prague to turn-of-the-millennium New York as a young musicologist seeks to solve the mystery behind an eighteenth-century sonata manuscript

Music and war, war and music—these are the twin motifs around which Bradford Morrow, recipient of the Academy Award in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, has composed his magnum opus, The Prague Sonata, a novel more than a dozen years in the making.

In the early days of the new millennium, pages of a worn and weathered original sonata manuscript—the gift of a Czech immigrant living out her final days in Queens—come into the hands of Meta Taverner, a young musicologist whose concert piano career was cut short by an injury. To Meta’s eye, it appears to be an authentic eighteenth-century work; to her discerning ear, the music rendered there is commanding, hauntingly beautiful, clearly the undiscovered composition of a master. But there is no indication of who the composer might be. The gift comes with the request that Meta attempt to find the manuscript’s true owner—a Prague friend the old woman has not heard from since the Second World War forced them apart—and to make the three-part sonata whole again. Leaving New York behind for the land of Dvorák and Kafka, Meta sets out on an unforgettable search to locate the remaining movements of the sonata and uncover a story that has influenced the course of many lives, even as it becomes clear that she isn’t the only one after the music’s secrets.

Magisterially evoking decades of Prague’s tragic and triumphant history, from the First World War through the soaring days of the Velvet Revolution, and moving from postwar London to the heartland of immigrant America, The Prague Sonata is both epic and intimate, evoking the ways in which individual notes of love and sacrifice become part of the celebratory symphony of life.

Music and War. All wars begin with music her father tells her just before he leaves to never return. Entrusting her with a portfolio with a mysterious sonata.

A look at Prague during WWII. The story is less a history lesson than a personal memoir of Otylie, who protects the piece the best way she knows how as her country is overridden by Nazis and neighbor turns against neighbor. While her own husband goes underground to join the resistance, she is left to survive and protect the sonata the best way she knows how.

In New York, many years later a chance meeting with an old woman from Prague brings Meta, a musicologist, into that same world. By giving her the piece of the sonata that Otylie entrusted her with and begging her to find the other two parts and return them to Otylie.

And so begins a journey that is told through various characters eyes. At times difficult to read, even knowing how this war would turn out, I cried for the people of Prague. One of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to and now have a much deeper appreciation for.

A story of hope and love and the power of music. Every one of the great composers is here as well as the great writers. We travel from WWI to the end of the Nazi regime.

It is a long read but well worth reading especially today.

Thank you Mr. Morrow!      Netgalley/Atlantic Monthly Press

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