The Prague Sonata

The Prague Sonata

Large Print - 2018
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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 Dvořak 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.

Publisher: Farmington Hills, Michigan : Thorndike Press, a part of Gale, Cengage Company, 2018.
Edition: Large print edition.
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9781432846633
Characteristics: 725 pages :,map ;,23 cm.


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Jan 25, 2018

Two young women, Meta Taverner and Otylie Bartosová, share a common passion for music in lives separated by years and distance. When Meta, an aspiring musicologist, is entrusted with a movement of a seemingly eighteenth century sonata by Otylie’s dearest friend, now a dying woman, she begins her quest to find Otylie or, at least, find her story and, perhaps, bring the missing movements together again.

Such a richly drawn novel, no wonder it was ten years in the writing. Readers spend time in New York City, Prague in now the Czech Republic, but also in more turbulent times from the early twentieth century to its 1980s independence, London and America’s Middle West. Author Morrow draws back the layers of the sonata’s story with an amazing cast of characters and a deft touch weaving several storylines and backstories to the book’s satisfying conclusion. Almost pitch perfect. Wonderful. Highly recommended.

Dec 31, 2017

I found this to be an intriguing book. Morrow spent a lot of time and effort in the research for this novel. His writing style is also captivating. I enjoy classical music, but one would not need to be into classical music to be captivated by the inter-generational intrigue in the story. One of the best books that I have read this year.

Nov 18, 2017

I found the book enjoyable as we had traveled to Prague a couple of years ago. It was fun to retrace the steps through many of the historic places we visited and hear of the occupations first by the Germans and then by the Communists.

Sep 28, 2017

Lush, lovely, and lyrical would be an accurate way to describe Mr. Morrow's twenty year journey in researching and writing The Prague Sonata.
I was captivated from the beginning by the story of two women, born almost sixty years apart, in their quest to preserve, and then recover a sonata of unknown authorship but of unmistakable beauty and originality. A sonata is a composition written in three sections known as an exposition, a development, and a recapitulation
Otylie Laska’s father gives her an eighteenth century manuscript of unknown provenance and authorship the night before he leaves to die in World War I. Music is war and war is music he tells her. She takes this to heart and refuses all contact with music although she treasures and cares for this manuscript because she recognizes the beauty and rarity of this music.
World War II comes to Prague in 1939. By then she has married a Jewish antiquarian, Jakub Bartsova who leaves Prague for the underground as the Nazis march into Prague. Otylie is determined to protect the sonata while at the same time keeping it from the Nazis. She divides the three sections of the sonata between herself, her husband Jakub and her very best friend Irena.
The year 2000 and Irena is dying. She manages to deliver a section to and fascinate a young musicologist, Meta Taverner, with the story of the sonata. Meta had been on her way to an illustrious career as a concert pianist. A car accident which damaged her hand has removed her far from the ranks of a first class pianist and into a career as a musicologist.
Meta is determined to travel to Prague and to find and unite all of the sections, plus determine the author of the sonata. The main drawback in determining authorship is the sonata is in a copyist’s hand, not the original composer’s hand.
If Meta’s crazy theory of authorship is proven, the music world will be set on its head and years of research will ensue.
What I don’t know about music can be told in one word: everything. Yet I did not find my ignorance much of a drawback. Yes, I occasionally wished for a better understanding of some of the terms, but Marrow helped me past those problems with his explanations and metaphors.
The story flows beautifully between different keepers of the sections and different historical times from World I through The Velvet Revolution. Prague is sometimes described as the most beautiful city in Europe. After reading about Prague during the time of the Nazi’s and communists one begins to understand the miracle of Prague’s survival.
There is a villain who loses all sense of himself in his quest to retrieve and own the sonata, but Marrow already knows this story is dramatic as it stands and the added drama is mild and well handled.
Most of the characters, even the one that appear for just a short while are multi-layered and fascinate with their own stories, the exception being a boyfriend, Jonathan, who was just a pleasant, then sad distraction.
The writing is just beautiful and I could give example after example, but let me end with this stunning quote “Impatient to experience the music off the page and set it free in the air”
Thank you to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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