From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. As a child, Hoffman studied piano and dreamed of performing professionally until she redirected her ambition toward writing; here she wields her expertise in both with dazzling success. Acclaimed American pianist Isabel Merton, on tour in Europe, becomes romantically entangled with Anzor Islikhanov, a semiofficial representative of Chechnya who follows her around Europe. They are both enthralled to personal passions—hers for music, his for his ravaged country—and their relationship intensifies with thrilling inevitability as a Chechen radical leader (with whom Anzor is not-so-secretly sympathetic) manipulates Anzor's allegiance to his homeland and drives a wedge between him and Isabel. Hoffman's prose is reliably gorgeous, and while the narrative lends itself nicely to sharp commentary and observations on politics, power and the role of the United States in a changing world, what's memorable is the way Hoffman maps the intersection of art, history and man's striving for meaning. (May)
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This unconventional novel follows the parallel passions of Isabel Merton, a renowned concert pianist, and Anzor Islikhanov, a Chechen political exile driven by a powerful desire to avenge his people, with whom she becomes involved. Anzor is a frankly unappealing character, whose interminable lectures are a reminder that terrorists make for uncomfortable dinner parties. “You think if you say a few nice things over dinner . . . that reprieves you from everything,” he tells a well-meaning American. Of more interest is Hoffman’s way of writing about music—a kind of blank verse, endowed with striking lyrical intensity. A description of Isabel’s performance of a Rachmaninoff Prelude notes “the build-up, the chords, ranged, arranged, like a cathedral, mountains, elements / larger than us, in excess of what we are.”
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