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Body & Soul [Kindle Edition]

Frank Conroy
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)

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Book Description

As a boy, Claude Rawlings looks up through the grated window of his basement apartment to watch the world go by. Poor, lonely, supported by a taxi-driver mother whose eccentricities spin more and more out of control, he faces the terrible task of growing up on the margins of life, destined to be a spectator of that great world always hurrying out of reach. But there is an out-of-tune piano in the small apartment, and in unlocking the secrets of its keys, as if by magic, Claude discovers himself. He is a musical prodigy.

Body & Soul is the story of a young man whose life is transformed by a gift. The gift is not without price — the work is relentless, the teachers exacting — but the reward is a journey that takes him to the drawing rooms of the rich and powerful, private schools, a gilt-edged marriage, and Carnegie Hall. Claude moves through this life as if he were playing a difficult composition, swept up in its drama and tension, surprised by its grace notes. Music, here, becomes a character in its own right, equaled in strength only by the music of Frank Conroy's own unmistakable and true voice.

Bristling with character and invention, Body & Soul is Dickensian in its range and richness. This is a novel with all the emotional appeal and moral gravity of a classic bildungsroman, but with a tone as contemporary as a jazz riff—an unforgettable achievement by one of the great writers of our time.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When the author of Stop-Time and Midair produces a new work, it is an event to celebrate. And although Conroy's bildungsroman of a boy finding his identity in his musical genius has some flaws, it is by and large an engrossing novel, written in a supple and elegant prose and displaying remarkable insight into the mind of a prodigy. Conroy's protagonist is Claude Rawlings, who grows up in the 1940s in the shadow of New York's Third Avenue El. Claude's education in some ways is similar to Billy Bathgate's: neglected by his emotionally unstable, alcoholic, cab-driver mother, he shines shoes, lifts coins from sewers and learns to steal. He is introduced to another world when Aaron Weisfeld, a music store owner and WW II refugee, recognizes his musical gifts and transports him to the Park Avenue apartment of a maestro whose Bechstein piano Claude uses and eventually inherits. Even more in the Dickensian mode, Claude falls in love with a cold, arrogant young woman from a patrician New York family, a character who is eerily similar to Estella in Great Expectations . Conroy's depiction of a young boy's discovery of music, the awakening of his sensibility and the flowering of his genius is brilliant. Lucid explanations of musical theory ranging from basic harmonics to the 12-tone scale, from Bach to Charlie Parker to Schoenberg, provide a continuum of insights and discoveries for Claude and for the reader. The first half of the book sweeps Claude along a path strewn with almost miraculous lucky breaks: he has inspired teachers and generous and appreciative patrons; his concerts are unalloyed triumphs--and only the cynical will wish for a disaster to increase the tension. (Readers of Stop Time will also recognize in Claude's childhood an alternative version of Conroy's miserable youth.) The second half is less successful. Claude's immersion in music, an obsession that makes him fascinating as a youth, renders him hollow as a man, and while Conroy obviously intends to demonstrate that Claude's emotional life is sterile in several ways, as a protagonist for a time he becomes a muted and shadowy figure. Claude's unquestioning relationship with the kindly Weisfeld, his first and abiding teacher, is less credible once he matures. The revelation of Claude's patrimony is poignantly rendered, however, and provides another look at the nature of creativity. And the book as a whole is harmoniously orchestrated and beautifully observed. 125,000 first printing; film rights to Spring Creek Productions; major ad/promo; author tour.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

From rags to riches--by way of musical genius--in this alluringly atmospheric first novel by Conroy of Stop-Time (1967) fame. In a squalid basement apartment on New York's Third Avenue toward WW II's end, a fatherless little kid named Claude Rawlings spends his days alone while his mother--obese, left-wing, prone to booze and to bouts of instability--drives a cab for a living. The days are long, and to while them away Claude bangs around on a small white piano (his mother was once a singer) half buried in the back of the apartment--and the rest, you could say, is history. Claude's awakening to music is splendidly, rivetingly, described, and the Horatio Alger-esque clich‚s and coincidences are readily forgiven as the boy tears through his beginning-level lessons, becomes the student of nearby music-store proprietor (and ‚migr‚, having fled from the Nazis) Aaron Weisfeld, stumbles into a full scholarship at a ritzy private high school, has his big break performing the Mozart double concerto with the world's greatest pianist, marries a pretty girl with a five-million-dollar trust fund, gets divorced five years later when it's discovered that.... In other words, once Claude is grown and launched, Conroy fills out his novel with more and more soap-opera turns, among them the death of Aaron Weisfeld (after the long-postponed revelation of his past), Claude's resultant and extended breakdown (connected also with his own medical secret), his sudden recovery and meteoric rise to new fame as the composer of a prize-winning concerto to be premiered in London, where, in case you're wondering what ever became of Claude's long-ago first teen heartthrob, or why he still hasn't ever found out who his father was.... Still, especially for the first two-thirds: a masterful coming-of-ager set in a now-vanished New York, with great music, and the life of great music, galore. (First printing of 75,000; film rights to Spring Creek Productions) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 649 KB
  • Print Length: 450 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1st edition (September 29, 1993)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004X7SYGI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #149,767 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth Reading and Recommending!! August 30, 1997
By A Customer
One of the best books I've ever read. You can see the little boy who lives in the basement looking up through the window, watching the feet of the passersby on the sidewalks of New York. And you can feel how he feels as he escapes into the piano. Not only will you get lost in this wonderful story, but you may find yourself as I did actually reading paragraphs over just because they were so beautifully written. His words ARE music. This is an amazing book. Frank Conroy, if you're out there.....please, write something else!!! I want more
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Conroy winner August 21, 1997
No, this isn't Pat Conroy, but it's the acclaimed teacher, Frank Conroy; and his book is wonderfully made. The scenes of Claude's childhood, like Peekay's first school experiences in The Power of One, will hit and stick. For those of us not familiar with the way music is taught to virtuosos and the kind of music theory their teachers indulge in, Conroy is kind yet instructive. If you ever played the piano, you'll love this book; and if you enjoy unusual characters and great characterization, grab this Conroy's book and enjoy
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome December 24, 2009
I thought I was a musician until I read this awesome book. Now I know that I've read the work of a master writer. I'm sorry I didn't read him while Conroy was alive, so I could thank him. I read several books per week and I stopped a couple of nights ago to share with my wife that this is the most awesome novel I have ever read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story and writing! April 12, 2004
By A Customer
I read this, then all my teenage children read it, one after the other. Just wonderful. More please from Mr. Conroy. Bravo!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite books - September 17, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is high on my list of favorite books. My favorite books are those that I put in the book case to be read again and again. I just finished reading it a second time, read it about four years ago, and I even enjoyed it more this time. No doubt I will read it again in 4-5 years and it will still be one of my favorites.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Body & Soul February 27, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I loved this book with my heart & soul! Beautifully written, riveting story with multi-layered, complex characters...I couldn't put it down, and was sorry to have the story come to an end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Favorite! March 7, 2012
I am lucky enough to have picked up a signed copy of this book at a used book store in San Francisco.

It is a child prodigy sort of story with lovely bits on learning piano and growing up.

The main characters mom is a poor cab driver hacking out a living and consorting some people on the wrong side of the political spectrum.

The parts on concerts and performing and society are lovely and make the book quite enjoyable and interesting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book club best June 1, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Frank Conroy was an unknown writer to me when our book club chose Body and Soul. Having studied music as a young girl, I was especially interested in the theme. The characters are so well drawn, sensitive and memorable, I would recommend this book to any "good reader". From start to finish it held my attention.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Truly a beautifully written story.
Published 14 days ago by Chatmandu
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great read! I didn't want it to end!
Published 16 days ago by Louise Finnessy
5.0 out of 5 stars The passion of music
Terrific novel of a young musician coming of age in 1940s and '50s Manhattan. Conroy draws the reader into the mind (and soul) of Claude Rawlings, through his dysfunctional... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Net Surfer
4.0 out of 5 stars Music is lead charactet
Great writing, interesting music theory
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved the story
Loved the story... wanted to keep reading to find out what was going to happen next -- lots of twists and turns.
Published 2 months ago by yvonne pearsall
5.0 out of 5 stars A fresh, unique story
Conroy captures the development of a young musician with care and keen insight to the artist. I found the story captivating as an amateur musician. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Roger Luekens
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous read
I learned so much about music in this book. I enjoy classical music but had no inkling of the depth and intensity involved. The characters were distinct and finely drawn.
Published 4 months ago by J. Kunkel
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless
l believe this is the fourth time I've read this book and each reading brings new insights and increased enjoyment. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Dennis G. Peck
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book, but wished for a little more at the end.
Published 6 months ago by AEF
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Unreadable
The story was somewhat interesting and I never felt like I didn't want to finish the book, but the main character never really developed (which may have been the point) and I... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Ruby Mills
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