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Comment: This book has already been loved by someone else. It MIGHT have some wear and tear on the edges, have some markings in it, or be an ex-library book. Over-all itâ€TMs still a good book at a great price! (if it is supposed to contain a CD or access code, that may be missing)
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Appassionata Hardcover – May 5, 2009

9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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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From The New Yorker

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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press; 1 edition (May 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590513193
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590513194
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,820,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Tick Pyne on August 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I love Eva Hoffman's writing and always approach a new work of hers with tremendous optimism and curiosity. This one, however, let me down badly. I found that most or all of the main characters were so tedious, unlikable and uninteresting, that it mattered not what happened to them or even why. Hoffman's prose in this book is also quite over the top and she really should have a dictionary at the back if she is determined to pepper her story with so many words not found in most of our vocabulary. Susurrus? Juddering? Aleatory? Acedia? All in a very few pages? I went to college and my IQ is more than my shoe size and my vocabulary respectable, but when a writer is more interested in showing off with words than with what they're actually saying or why or how, she's lost me. It is also worth noting here, I think, that for all of Hoffman's highfalutin' words, she manages to repeatedly refer to Fairway, the famous vegetable and fruit store on Broadway's Upper West Side, as The Fairway, which it is not. A bit more attention to details and characters might have improved this book and a bit less effort at being, well, sesquipedalian.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By L. Young VINE VOICE on June 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Isabel Merton is a famous concert pianist recently separated from her law professor husband. On a concert tour of Euope she becomes involved with an enigmatic Chechen by the name of Anzor Islikhanov. As their relationship deepens she will be drawn closer to the violently righteous anger sitting beneath Anzor's surface, and the painful history of his war-torn country. As she becomes more and more aware of the possibility that Anzor is a terrorist she begins to question the value of music in a world biesieged by violence. This causes a crisis of conscience for Isabel. What are the responsibilities of the powerful and the powerless. What value does the artist have?

Through the intimacy of Isabel and Anzor's relationship large and very relevant issues are explored. However, the problem with the novel is that it is written with such opacity of style that we are distanced from the characters and lose interest. Other than Isabel, all the characters in the novel are one dimensional, some even stereotypical. Aside from a glimmer of Anzor's smoldering sexuality it is difficult to see what about him appeals to Isabel. This is definitely a novel for the patient reader as it is often repetitive and slow moving.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Santiago Lafcadio on September 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Appassionata (a much better title than its original, published-in-the-UK Illuminations) is a wonderful art-meets-life story in which art triumphs, however wounded may be the artist by what the author calls "the larger futility." Isabel learns "to give homage to the world not for its goodness, but for its Being." It's the least, and also the most, anyone can do. When the artist confronts the brutality of everyday political life, she has a choice: play (create) or retreat. Isabel does retreat, which makes her re-emergence into life all the more satisfying. This novel ends where it begins (in an airport) and yet travels not only the world (Europe) but also through the mind and heart of one of the great depictions of a performing artist in fiction.

As for the writing (about which other readers have complained), it's like confronting Chopin and Schumann in prose. For some, yes, overblown; for others, ecstasy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Witold on November 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author writes well, so, whatever the fruits of her labor, reading her is not a complete waste of time. However, the plot of this novel too easily and too quickly found itself on the familiar and boring "good versus evil" territory. We already have enough of that on certain TV channels. Definitions of terrorism are complex and largely depending on socio-political context. The book stays away from such murky waters. Here, beauty equals morality which in turn all equals the overall unquestionable goodness of the Western world. The novel was probably thought of as some deeper exploration of world's affairs (with a smart choice of an unknown, "neutral" type of a terrorist such as the Chechen whose sex appeal consists of anger) but the author basically surrendered mid-way and, after spending some 20 pages in an awkward limbo, ended up very flat with something inconclusive, delicately mysterious and vaguely comforting; something like "life will go on, goodness will prevail etc.". Most probably, she simply run out of time and patched up the novel very quickly. Of course, the ingredients for the book were right, but the result is basically disappointing. There is also the overwhelming "grandeur" of ultra-sophisticated vocabulary, which only adds to a slight impression of pretentiousness. More could be achieved by "less".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Renate Bridenthal on August 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
While I'm a fan of Eva Hoffman, whose "Lost in Translation" blew me away, I was disappointed in this novel. Perhaps, as an amateur pianist myself, I expected too much. But from the start I found it greatly over-written, weighed down rather than soaring with impassioned adjectives and adverbs. Sometimes I felt as if I were reading concert program notes. Also, the characters seemed somewhat unreal, with the female protagonist too abstracted to have made it through life at all and the male love interest too narrowly obsessive to have been attractive.
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