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Mozart's Sister: A Novel Paperback – July 22, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Maria Anna Mozart (1751–1829), nicknamed Nannerl by her brother Wolfgang Amadeus, was also known in her lifetime as a musical child prodigy, but was outshone by her younger brother. In this energetic debut, Italian TV scriptwriter Charbonnier fictionalizes Nannerl's life, beginning with her tender years in the household of ambitious and tyrannical patriarch Leopold Mozart. Depriving her of her beloved violin (not an instrument for girls), Leopold forces Nannerl into a supporting role for Wolfgang, which Charbonnier dramatizes with melodramatic verve. Nannerl's adult epistolary love affair inevitably gets tangled with Wolfgang and his career, though the two remain close throughout his short life. There's a blunt immediacy to the writing (carriage horses t[ake] off with a whinny of euphoria; characters exclaim Holy Shit at moments of crisis), and Charbonnier is more concerned with bursts of emotion than period detail throughout. Deep this isn't, but it does capture some of the electricity than ran through the family. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“A moving tribute to the spirit of a forgotten sibling. Music imbues every gripping page, and in revealing Nannerl, Charbonnier also gives us a different view of Mozart, both rounding out and exploding the myths of his brief, tragic life.”
Susanne Dunlap, author of Emilie’s Voice and Liszt’s Kiss

“A dysfunctional family, sex scandals, and true love?—eighteenth-century Europe was a far different world from ours, yet Rita Charbonnier’s skill and verve make us feel at home, and we cheer for the brilliant, resilient Nannerl as she struggles to become much more than Mozart’s sister.”
Karen Harper, author of The Last Boleyn

“If you sympathized with Salieri when you watched Amadeus, wait until you find out what happened to Nannerl, Mozart’s sister. As brilliantly talented as her younger brother, she had a famous musical career that was ruthlessly turned into a mere addendum to his. Mozart’s Sister brings an intriguing woman back to life.”
India Edghill, author of Wisdom’s Daughter

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press; Reprint edition (July 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307346978
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307346971
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,615,133 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I was born and live in Italy, in Rome. Before dedicating myself to writing I was a musical theater actress. I went to drama school in Sicily and also followed some courses in New York, where I took part in a musical at NYU. "Mozart's Sister" is my first novel. It was published first in Italian and then translated into English, French, German, Spanish, and Dutch.
Feel free to visit my website at

Customer Reviews

The biggest problem with the book, however, is that Nannerl, as written, just isn't a very interesting character.
J. Fuchs
Plainly, the author takes us over the surface and into the heart of Nannerl's great torment - a woman of great talent, a woman suppressed by a heavy-handed society.
Her well honed theatrical and musical background is evident in the spectacular descriptions of the music and composition characteristic of Wolfgang Mozart.
The Curious Dame

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The children of Leopold Mozart are uniquely talented, daughter Nannerl (Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart), five years older than prodigy Wolfgang Mozart. Unfortunately for Nannerl, her aspirations will not only be secondary to her sibling's achievements, but she will be flatly forbidden to compose. In 1770 Salzburg, only men compose music; women may perform for appreciative audiences, but certain accomplishments are rendered gender specific. Treasured for her musical talent until the birth of her brother, Nannerl is unprepared for the vehement rebuff of her father, his open hostility to her dedication to anything other than performing for select royal audiences. The family undertakes a grand your when Nannerl is eleven, Wolfgang six, enchanting their aristocratic audience; but when Wolfgang announces that he is playing one of Nannerl's compositions, Leopold flies into a rage, accusing the girl of sabotaging her brother's chances for success.

Consequently, when Leopold prepares to introduce his son to Italy, Nannerl is left at home under her mother's supervision, instructed to teach piano to wealthy students and forward the profits of her labors to father and son to finance their tour. Extremely close in their youth, brother and sister turn away from one another during Wolfgang's Italian tour, a young man feted and applauded, his music and charm the toast of salons. Of necessity, Nannerl bows to Leopold's demands, but doing so causes a lasting resentment of Wolfgang's burgeoning career. Her dreams are shattered; but much as she tries to cut herself off from her creative spirit, it is music that sustains this remarkably talented woman, hampered by the conventions of society.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By The Curious Dame on July 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Mozart's Sister: A Novel

Maria Anna Mozart, beloved nicknamed Nannerl, was the elder and only sister of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. As children, both were considered gifted musical prodigies and their father, Leopold, arranged tours to display their talents to the masses in the grandest capitals of Europe. Both children could play the most challenging pieces and could compose into notes any song they heard.

They enjoyed a pleasant childhood, indulging their musical creativity and creating their own childish kingdom. As Nannerl and Wolfgang's musical genius progressed into composition, her adoring younger brother greatly praised and encouraged her work. At a concert, when he announces that the piece he has just played was written by his sister, Leopold is incensed. He orders Nannerl to never compose music again because in the 18th century, women did not become composers.

Thereafter, Leopold focused all his attentions on Mozart, not Nannerl. He refused to allow her to study the violin and composition. Leopold announces Nannerl must remain at home when he takes Wolfgang on tour and obliges her to give piano lessons to wealthy students to finance her brother's Italian tour. Her dreams shattered, Nannerl complies, but falls into a deep depression.

Victoria, one of her students, becomes her protégé. Through Victoria, Nannerl's passion for music is re-awakened. When Victoria's father becomes interested in her, he rekindles her spirit. Her relationship with Mozart, however, is plagued by years of separation and the preference of their father for his son and not his daughter.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By JRT on February 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Leopold Mozart's genes found a way to show themselves for at least one generation before they began to fade from the human gene pool. I began thinking about this one day recently when I was listening to one of Leopold's symphonies, the "Toy Symphony," on my satellite radio as I was driving to a meeting. Leopold's notion that his children - or, at least his son Wolfgang - were enormously talented was clear: he once referred to Wolfgang as "the miracle which God let be born in Salzburg."
But what of Wolfgang's arguably equally talented older sister, Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart?

The quest for the answer to this question took me to Rita Charbonnier's wonderful work, "Mozart's Sister (La Sorella di Mozart, in the original Italian).

As with all historical fiction writers, the task placed before Charbonnier was intimidating - how to blend the historical events in the life of Nannerl with a fictional tale of a woman trying hard to rise above a society where gender really, really mattered. Charbonnier accomplishes this task, producing a novel that draws us into the European salon world of the late 1700's while spreading before us the musical genius of a woman who is kicking against the goads of a men's world that was totally unprepared to accept such talent in a woman.

Charbonnier, herself a talented young Italian scriptwriter and musical theatre performer, has chosen the time-honored path of letter exchanges between Nannerl and another talented woman, Victoria, who, like the cavalry in the Old West, charges into Nannerl's life to pull Nannerl out of her depression to find an outlet for her genius. Charbonnier spins her tale by using letters between Nannerl and Victoria's adoring father to open the window into Nannerl's heart.
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