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And After the Fire: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 3, 2016

4.3 out of 5 stars 331 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Belfer's compelling third novel, an American soldier in 1945 Germany unknowingly purloins a controversial unpublished cantata by the great Johann Sebastian Bach, and it ends up in the hands of the soldier's niece, Susanna Kessler, upon his death. The journey of this manuscript, with lyrics based on one of Martin Luther's anti-Jewish screeds, from Sara Itzig Levy—a Jewish student of Bach's eldest son and the real-life budding doyenne of Berlin's upper echelons—to America is interspersed with Susanna's own inner trajectory to finding normalcy and love in her life after being raped. The author's strengths lie in the historical passages, starting with the 1780s when Sara receives the cantata as a young woman, and continuing through her rise in society, her subsequent marriage, and her confidential gift of the manuscript to her beloved niece's daughter, Fanny (sister to Felix Mendelssohn). Fanny leaves it in a piano bench, where it's discovered by Susanna's uncle. Belfer's (A Fierce Radiance) comprehensive research brings depth and veracity to the novel, intertwining real-life figures and events from the past with the modern-day story and detailing the strong currents of anti-Semitism that have existed in Germany for centuries. The people in Susanna's life, as well as the contemporary situations Belfer portrays, are not as strongly drawn, and the passages about romance and sexual attraction in both the modern and historic realms never quite work. Nevertheless, this is an immersive, page-turning story emboldened by historical fact and a rich imagination. (May)\n

Review

“[Belfer’s] virtuoso novel…epitomizes Faulkner’s epigram that the past is never dead―or even past. Susanna and Sara’s storylines inevitably merge, across centuries and continents and gathering suspense. The novel swells with life’s great themes―love and death, family and faith ―and the insistent, dark music of loss.” (USA Today, ****)

“In Belfer’s hands, fictitious characters blend uncannily with historical ones.” (The New Yorker)

“Finely written historical fiction layered with richly detailed characters and moral complexity.” (Jane Ciabattari, BBC.com)

“[A] compelling blend of fact and fiction.… Based on impressive research, this remarkable novel spans centuries and continents, touching finally on the Holocaust and serving as a paean to Bach’s music.” (Booklist (starred review))

“A different species of suspense tale…. Evocative, deeply researched…. Manage[s] to dazzle while delving into dark places.” (Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air)

“An intellectual thriller and a beautiful love story. What if you came into possession of an historical artifact with the power to alter history and change the world? Sure to establish Belfer as a fearless, provocative writer. Impossible to put down.” (Sara Gruen, #1 New York Times bestselling author of At the Water’s Edge and Water for Elephants)

“A bold and hugely ambitious novel with the transfixing appeal of a best-seller…by a native daughter of the city whose talent is now even beyond the admiration of those of us so impressed by City of Light.…Extraordinary.” (Buffalo News)

“Engrossing. . . . A needy musicologist and his kid, a worldly woman haunted by trauma, the promise of the fabulous discovery of a lost and un-performable work by Johann Sebastian Bach—mix in greed and the drama that is modern New York—and you have the basis of a strong novel. Add to this generations of great names in music and culture, and you get a page-turner to love, even if you’re tone deaf. . . . a compelling and entertaining novel that will send you back to music.” (WOSU Radio)

“A remarkably suspenseful story, a literary thriller in the tradition of A.S. Byatt’s Possession.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Compelling…. An immersive, page-turning story emboldened by historical fact and a rich imagination.” (Publishers Weekly)

Product details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (May 3, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062428519
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062428516
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Customer Reviews: 4.3 out of 5 stars331 customer ratings
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #873,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5
331 customer ratings
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Top international reviews

Jessica Russell
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 24, 2020
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N. E. Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars Bach's Legacy
Reviewed in Canada on June 28, 2016
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Madeleine Rivard
5.0 out of 5 stars Ce roman constitue une extraordinaire fresque historique sur les musiciens de la période baroque ainsi que sur une partie de l'
Reviewed in Canada on July 3, 2016
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merle snider
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy delivery
Reviewed in Canada on April 26, 2019
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Newbie
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Reviewed in India on February 23, 2019
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anna walsh
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful quality of paper it's little better than pulp and the pages have not been cut ...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 11, 2016
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