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The Time of Our Singing: A Novel Paperback – January 1, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
I thought for a long time regarding how best to describe this book in one sentence. In this, I felt as if I had been put in the predicament experienced by a New York Times book reviewer who, two decades ago, in describing a favorite work of literature, wrote "...I find myself nervous, to a degree I don't recall in my past as a reviewer, about failing the work, inadequately describing its brilliance." And, with apologies to another author whose title words I paraphrase above, this is how I choose to describe this powerful new novel.
The overarching theme of the story is race, and what it is like to be black in America (even if that "blackness" is barely apparent and issues of class and culture are largely absent). It is the story of three siblings - two brothers of nearly the same age and a younger sister - flung apart repeatedly by the centripetal force of race and its effect on family and career in the latter half of the 20th century, only to be brought back together time and again by the pressure of events, both familial and racial. Powers uses the subthemes of classical music and contemporary physics to compelling effect in weaving together both the narrative of the siblings (and their family) and the greater story of "being black in America." In the process, he cuts across time, flashing backwards and forwards in the narrative while telling both the story of the siblings and the history of race relations from their parents' generation to the near-present. The latter is dealt with in a series of brilliant set pieces covering every race-relations event of significance over this period, from Marian Anderson's Lincoln Memorial concert of 1939, in defiance of the D.A.R.Read more ›
The Time of Our Singing tells the story of a black woman and a jewish man who decide to marry after meeting at a musical event-slash-antidiscrimination rally. Their mixed marriage is the bane of her parents, and of the central characters in the novel, the two sons and the daughter issueing from their bond. One of the sons grows into a singer of world class stature, while the other is tossed to and fro between the claims made on him by his brother as a fellow-musician, and by his sister as a fellow black person.Read more ›
Through two story lines that ultimately intersect, the novel recounts the history of the Strom family, a family remarkable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the innate musical talent that finds its greatest --- or at least most public --- outlet in Jonah Strom, a vocal prodigy who makes the singing of chamber music his life and livelihood. Jonah is the eldest son of a Jewish physicist who left Germany to escape the Nazis and an African-American woman from Philadelphia who met on the Mall in Washington D.C. during the historic performance by Marian Anderson on Easter day 1939. Improbably, the two fell in love and their union produced three offspring: Jonah, Joseph --- who narrates much of the novel and is Jonah's accompanist --- and Ruth, who finds her identity in the more radical arm of the civil rights movement and rejects her brothers' love and performance of European music.
The novel's primary concern may be the ways in which racial identity influences the course of a person's life, but along the way, Powers offers remarkable descriptions of music and the process of creating it: "This is how I see my brother, forever.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Brilliant. One of the best books I've ever read in my life.
I wanted to underline every passage, every sentence.
A work of staggering brilliance and insight. In other words, just another novel by Mr. Powers.Published 5 months ago by Daniel Lubetsky
Richard Powers is the Beethoven of writers. The depth, scope and complexity of the book is like Beethoven's Fifth. Astounding in its brilliance. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Songbird
For everyone whose fear that the way is lost keeps them from claiming the moment in which we live, an invitation to swim together in time's river of song.Published 11 months ago by Elisabeth Barrows King
One of the most important stories about America and race, with eerie resonances to our current cultural reality.Published 12 months ago by Jane Hill
I think the story and premise are fine. However, it is very tedious reading, taking a long time to identify where the direction of the story line is going. Read morePublished 14 months ago by jeanette l banks
Beautifully written, although it is a little long. Well worth diving into it!Published 15 months ago by Lynne PhillipsWerbel