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Sleeping with Schubert: A Novel Hardcover – June 22, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (June 22, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400060419
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400060412
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,250,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Bonnie Marson's debut novel, Sleeping with Schubert, is the unlikely story of what happens when the passionate spirit of a legendary 19th-century composer inhabits an ordinary Brooklyn lawyer. While the premise of this exploration seems preposterous (and often is too unbelievable to merit any serious thought), Marson does a commendable job of creating a genuinely likeable protagonist whom she surrounds with an equally amusing and entertaining cast of supporting characters. These portraits, combined with a sharp, witty sense of irony on the author's part, save this book from what could have been a grave misstep into the world of fantasy Chick Lit.

Sleeping with Schubert follows its heroine Liza Durbin from her debut at a Nordstrom piano to a full-fledged world tour that culminates in a grand finale at Lincoln Center. Along the way, Liza's quirky family make guest appearances, as well as her on-again/off-again boyfriend Patrick, her eccentric piano teacher, and a host of admirers and jealous acquaintances posing as well-wishers. Because this is inherently Chick Lit, Marson indulges in the issues so central to the genre, including warped body images, stunning sisters, cherished best friends, bad hair days, and crazy mothers ("Your father and I have a theory. Maybe you could be just a teeny little bit like an idiot-savant."). However, Schubert's presence adds a layer of complexity that is rare to this type of book; rather than dwelling on the hardships of magazine publishing and office flirtations, Marson treats the reader to a bit of culture and sophistication. By combining an unusual circumstance with a welcome and inviting level of introspection that is rare to most heroines in the genre, Marson offers audiences the chance to imagine a reality in which baby grand pianos fit in Brooklyn apartments and frumpy lawyers can become renowned Romantic composers. --Gisele Toueg

From Publishers Weekly

Off-key simulations of classical music, celebrity journalism and human relationships flatten first-time author Marson's high-concept chick-lit novel about a cranky 21st-century Brooklyn lawyer possessed by the titular 19th-century Viennese composer and pianist. Protagonist Liza Durbin is succinctly introduced as a 30-something with worldly and otherworldly concerns. But Marson's reckless use of analogy ("The music followed a wild course, carved through stony walls, bathed in icy waters") and adjectives ("Her deep brown eyes doubled in size, and her pumpkin-bright hair bristled") gets in the way of her storytelling. Liza is first visited by Schubert when she sits down at a department store piano; her family soon persuades her to take her unusual skills public ("I say make a CD today so if it goes away tomorrow, it's not a total loss"). Her meteoric rise to stardom is chronicled in mock newspaper articles and television transcripts, broad parodies that strain for effect. Narrative suspense and emotion emerge as Liza's Carnegie Hall debut approaches and her on-again off-again boyfriend Patrick bridles at sharing Liza with Franz, but a heroine whose life change brings inadvertent weight loss and battles with a shallow, gorgeous kid sister may remind readers of warmer characters by Jennifer Weiner and Jane Green. Marson is at her best in capturing the power of music to transform and (literally) inhabit performers and composers, but this is a brittle, overworked debut.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

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It has been a long time since I had as much fun reading a book.
The power of music and creativity are stunningly drawn, and I only wish I could hear the imagined melodies of "Schubert's spirit."
This book could have been silly, but it was very well written, clever and engaging.
MV Lawyer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
SLEEPING WITH SCHUBERT is easily a five-star effort and I was going to write a glowing review until I picked up the paper this morning and read Ms. Eugenia Zuckerman's review of SCHUBERT in the Washington Post Book Work. Since it is so much more elegant than anything I would have written, I suggest that you read her beautiful words which are a direct reflection of how I feel about Ms. Marson's wonderful novel:
Reviewed by Eugenia Zukerman
Sunday, July 4, 2004; Page BW08
By Bonnie Marson. Random House. 382 pp. $21.95

Someone said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture, so wouldn't it be ironic if a visual artist, attempting her first novel, could not only skillfully describe creating and playing music, but also fashion characters and a story about it that are utterly enchanting? Well, say Hat's Off! to Bonnie Marson. Sleeping with Schubert is a dazzling, touching, funny and original tale. Marson's tone is pitch perfect, her storytelling is both polished and surprising, and her ability to make her characters as zany as they are lovable is alchemic.
While visiting her parents in California, Marson's heroine, a lawyer named Liza Durbin, suddenly feels an overwhelming urge to play the baby grand she spots near the shoe department at a local Nordstrom's. Having had only a few lessons in grade school, she gives a performance that is nothing short of miraculous. "I watched my fingers hurling, twisting, and dancing wildly, amazed they didn't pretzel up on me," Liza recalls. "Then came a light and lilting part pulling on strands of melody remembered from the beginning. The ending left me tear-drenched.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Buzz on November 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I hesitate to use too many superlatives for fear of not being credible, but here goes anyway: This book is the funniest, most entertaining, gripping, exciting, and pleasurable story I've read in ions. My only criticism is that it wasn't longer as I didn't want the pleasure to end. While at first the story might seem somewhat contrived, Marson's creative brillance brings it off seamlessly. I didn't find any great spiritual lessons or philosophical insights here; rather, enjoyment was what I gained. I can't remember anything I've ever read that made me laugh out loud as much, somewhat embassingly when I was reading the book in public. The protagonist's sister is a stitch, as are all other members of her family. I was thinking how the novel would end, and I was expecting some humdrum denourement, but even there I was rewarded with a surprisingly touching and emotional close. Here's my hope: I hope that Bonnie Marson is not a one-time wonder. I'll buy whatever she writes next, but this book is a tough act to follow.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Sleeping with Schubert is one of those rare books that takes you to a new place in your thinking . . . and helps you see potential where you didn't know it exists. Every time I would start to feel like the book was about to fail me, Ms. Marson would kick in with just what I was looking for. I suspect that Sleeping with Schubert is just the beginning of a very successful career for someone of such original talents.

On the surface, the book may not sound special. A woman suddenly finds herself sharing her body and mind with Franz Schubert, and able to write music and play the piano like him. Naturally, there are complications. How is she to explain this to others? How should she run her own life? How does she share more intimate and embarrassing moments with a man who has been dead for many years? Those complications are treated in as humorous a way as you can imagine. I find myself often reminded of the better moments in the Stephanie Plum novels, except with the setting being among the upper crust in the world's great concert halls and conservatories.

The book evolves naturally into how Schubert would see today's world, and what he would think of our music since then. Also, what musical tasks would he want to pursue? As a music fan, I found this part of the book to be especially delightful.

The book is both goofy and endearing. That's a hard combination to achieve, and I was most impressed by the results.

At the end I was left with the thought that I probably have unfinished business in my life. Why don't I just get on with it and finish that business? After all, one never knows what tomorrow will bring!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Vina Williams on June 27, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a singer, have sung Schubert leider and his choral masses. A fellow singer recommended this book to me and I was eager to read it. Because my son attended Juilliard and performed in Carnegie Hall, I enjoyed the descriptions of the protagonist's experiences there. This book is a complete fantasy, and as such, should have been a novella, not a 300-page novel. About 2/3 of the way through I began to get tired of the premise of the story and the characters themselves. I haven't finished reading it yet, so don't know the outcome, what is going to happen to Liza, and I'm not sure that I care much. The book is just too long, and the fantasy, charming at first, has worn thin for me.
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