Rose Tremain deserves a hallelujah chorus dedicated to her alone. A decade after the appearance of Restoration
, with its superb evocation of the British baroque, comes her glorious and enthralling Music and Silence
. Like the earlier novel, this one is a treasure house of delights--as haunting as it is pleasurable and teeming with real and imagined characters, intrigues, searches, and betrayals. The vivid scenes loop in and out, back and forth, like overlapping and repeated chords in a single, delicious composition.
The year is 1629, and King Christian IV of Denmark is living in a limbo of fear for his life and rage over his country's ruin, not to mention his wife's not-so-secret adultery. He consoles himself with impossible dreams and with music, the latter performed by his royal orchestra in a freezing cellar while he listens in his cozy chamber directly above. Music, he hopes, will create the sublime order he craves. The queen, meanwhile, detests nothing more. The duty of assuaging the king's miseries falls to his absurdly handsome English lutenist, Peter Claire, who resigns himself to his (so to speak) underground success:
They begin. It seems to Peter Claire as if they are playing only for themselves, as if this is a rehearsal for some future performance in a grand, lighted room. He has to keep reminding himself that the music is being carried, as breath is carried through the body of a wind instrument, through the twisted pipes, and emerging clear and sharp in the Vinterstue, where King Christian is eating his breakfast.... He strives, as always, for perfection and, because he is playing and listening with such fierce concentration, doesn't notice the cold in the cellar as he thought he would, and his fingers feel nimble and supple.
Other stories, each of them full of fabulous invention, intertwine with these musical machinations. There is the tale of the king's mother, who hoards her gold in secret; the tormenting memory of his boyhood friend, Bror; and the romance between Peter Claire and the queen's downtrodden maid, Emilia. And while the author paid meticulous mind to her period settings, her take on desire and longing has a very modern intensity to it, as if an ancient score were being performed on a contemporary (and surpassingly elegant) instrument. --Ruth Petrie
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Michael Praed shines in his performance of Tremain's 1995 Whitbread Award–winning novel. His intimate, sensual voice and use of pacing—even within sentences—adds nuance to each scene. He has a distinct voice for each character, and his variety of accents are believable and without affectation. Especially engaging are the story's central characters: King Christian IV of 17th-century Denmark has the quiet, gravelly voice of age and profound sadness; the lutenist Peter Claire (the central love interest) is very appealing. Clare Wille expertly handles the emotional swings of Christian's childish, scheming and sex-crazed wife, Kirsten. The device of alternating voices becomes somewhat annoying in an abridgment, but the plot line is clear, and lovely 17th-century lute intervals signal omissions. A Random hardcover. (July)
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