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.
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