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The Song of Names [Kindle Edition]

Norman Lebrecht
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.95
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $4.96 (33%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Martin Simmonds’ father tells him, “Never trust a musician when he speaks about love.” The advice comes too late. Martin already loves Dovidl Rapoport, an eerily gifted Polish violin prodigy whose parents left him in the Simmonds’s care before they perished in the Holocaust. For a time the two boys are closer than brothers. But on the day he is to make his official debut, Dovidl disappears. Only 40 years later does Martin get his first clue about what happened to him.

In this ravishing novel of music and suspense, Norman Lebrecht unravels the strands of love, envy and exploitation that knot geniuses to their admirers. In doing so he also evokes the fragile bubble of Jewish life in prewar London; the fearful carnival of the Blitz, and the gray new world that emerged from its ashes. Bristling with ideas, lambent with feeling, The Song of Names is a masterful work of the imagination.


From the Trade Paperback edition.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this highly entertaining and accomplished first novel by a well-known English journalist and music critic, two men who became friends as children in London during WWII are reunited after 40 years. In 1939, nine-year-old Martin Simmonds meets Dovidl Rapoport, a violin prodigy the same age. Martin's father is a music impresario, and when Dovidl is sent by his Polish parents to study in England, he offers the boy lodging in his own home. Dovidl and Martin quickly become best friends. Dovidl's parents perish in the Holocaust; then, in 1951, Dovidl-his name changed to the more palatable Eli-is about to embark on a career as a concert virtuoso when he disappears on the day of his debut. Martin becomes obsessed with his friend's disappearance, and after decades of searching finally finds him in a dreary town in the north of England. Lebrecht's deep knowledge of music, his insights and his verbal inventiveness enliven the book (describing two awkward professors, he says they "stand out like frayed cuffs on a funeral suit"). However, the novel drags in the middle with the backstory of the two boys living through the blitz; this is material that has been presented elsewhere and in greater depth. Also, there's no real mystery in unraveling either the location or identity of Rapoport. Simmonds's supposedly epic quest ("I am consumed by thoughts of finding him") is over in less than two days, and it's a letdown for the reader not to be able to sift through tantalizing clues. These shortcomings aside, this is a confidently written and engaging first novel by a talented writer.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Winner of the 2002 Whitbread Prize for a first novel, Lebrecht, cultural commentator for the BBC, brings to life an intriguing tale about music and betrayal. Dovidl Rappoport is a violin prodigy and a Polish refugee whose family perished in the Holocaust. He now lives with a wealthy Jewish family in London and befriends their socially awkward son, Martin Simmonds. Martin's father, a musical impresario, trains Dovidl for the biggest debut on the London stage, and Martin is commandeered to act as caretaker. The two become close friends, forming a sybaritic relationship. Dovidl, however, slowly begins to slink into London's seamier nightlife and eventually disappears on the day of his much-anticipated debut, wreaking havoc on the family and its business. Forty years later, Martin discovers a trace of the vanished prodigy and eventually ekes out a plan to avenge the betrayal all those years ago. Lebrecht's story delves into the horrors of the Holocaust and the Blitz, as well as the quiet communities of Hasidic Judaism that developed in Britain after the flight of so many refugees. What emerges is a vivid and outstanding story that sings about artistry, genius, music, love, envy, friendship, and revenge. Michael Spinella
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 470 KB
  • Print Length: 322 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1400034892
  • Publisher: Anchor (December 18, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000XUDFUY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #266,332 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
(9)
4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
By gac1003
Format:Paperback
Martin Simmonds, the President ad Owner of Simmonds Ltd. (a music publishing company), has been asked to judge a music festival in the small town of Tawburn. He hears nothing remarkable until one young player - a violinist - plays a certain rubato, one that reminds Martin of the young man who stayed with his family in London, pre-WWII. The young man was a virtuoso, showing great promise but disappeared from Martin's family and from the world mysteriously, on the day of his debut performance.
What follows in Norman Lebrecht's "The Song of Names," is a story of remembrance and devotion. With that one rubato, Martin travels back in time, to when his father took in the promising young violinist, Dovidl Rapoport, while his father returned to Warsaw to protect his family. He remembers all the devotion the two shared and the pain that was caused to him and his family upon Dovidl's disappearance. The grown-up Martin begis a search for Dovidl, forcing both of them to face up to their pasts.
The characters are very well-defined and believable. Plus, Lebrecht's descriptions of life in pre-War London from a child's perspective are quite remarkable. You really feel as though you are biking through the streets with the two young boys or watching the Germans warplanes flying over London. He also gives the reader insight into the different sects of the Jewish community in both the past and the present.
Overall, I found this book to be quite an enjoyable read and recommend it highly.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love and Music November 12, 2005
Format:Paperback
I picked this book from a shelf of trade paperbacks at one of my favorite local independent bookstores, solely because of the title. On the back cover the blurb says, "Martin Simmonds' father tells him, 'Never trust a musician when he speaks about love.' The advice came too late." I was sold. And I was not disappointed. In fact, it has been a while since I enjoyed a book this much.

Martin Simmonds is the son of a man who ran a music promotion company that catered to the middleclass. In 1940s England, that was unique and probably considered quite low-brow. But the man was a master of PR and with this skill would take young hopeful classical musicians and build them a career of minor fame.

Just before Hitler invaded Poland, David Rapoport, a nine year old violin prodigy, is left by his father in the care of the Simmonds. The father went back to Poland and David never saw him or the rest of his family again. David is many things to the Simmonds family. To the father, he is the great future star who will make the company well thought of. So David is groomed and coddled, brought to the best teachers, given an almost priceless vintage violin. But to nine year old Martin, David is a brother, a companion, an idol, but most of all someone to love in a fairly loveless family.

They grow up together and David makes Martin come alive, gives him a personality and Martin feels loved in return. The book open 40 years after David disappeared on the night of his world debut. Martin is now an old hypocondriac and a broken spirit. He has taken over the family business, which has devolved into a shoddy, outdated sheet music company. On a business trip to the English hinterlands, Martin hears a young violinist with a bit of David's signature technique in his playing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining Read November 25, 2007
Format:Paperback
This is an entertaining book, but not a literary giant, about boys in London during WWII. One is a violin prodigy, Jewish, who was brought to London from Poland just in time. The other is the son of the Jewish, musical, family with whom the prodigy lives. The middle chapters of the book are a flashback about the boys' lives together. I found the description of London during WWII bombings perfunctory and not convincing. I've read much better books about this time period. The boys were not believable characters.

However, the first few and last few chapters are about the boys as grown men. I enjoyed these and found the characters far more realistic. All of the book is told from the point of view of Martin, the London boy who hosts the prodigy.

The "song of names" refers to a song used to remember the names and dates of death of Jews who died in the Holocaust. I suppose this really did exist and that it was the inspiration around which this book was constructed. A lot of it, mostly the central part, has a reportorial feel. After all, the writer is a reporter. I didn't warm to any of the characters. The dialog throughout was more like people lecturing each other than really talking.

I thought the ending was funny and clever.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Strange novel June 27, 2014
By Teacher
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The characters are not very likable, themselves, but the surprising story is well told. Lebrecht has a poetic ability to describe music.
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5.0 out of 5 stars moving story October 18, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book is a beautiful story I have read years back about the times of the blitz in London.
This time I bought two of them for my husband and my son.
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