Music & Silence


Music & Silence
by Rose Tremain
Winner of the 1999 Whitebread Award for Novel
Genre: Adult Fiction

Summary from flap of book:

Winner of the Whitebread Novel of the Year Award, Music & Silence is the story of a young English lutenist named Peter Claire who in 1629 arrives at the Danish Court to join King Christian IV’s Royal Orchestra. From the moment he realizes that the musicians have to perform in a freezing cellar underneath the royal apartments, he understands that he’s come to a place where the opposing states of light and dark, good and evil, are waging war to the death. Designated the King’s “Angel” because of his good looks, he finds himself falling in love with the young women who is the companion of the King’s adulterous and estranged wife, Kirsten. With his loyalties fatally divided, how will Peter Claire find the path that will realize his hopes and save his soul?

I do not think that this summary is very adequate for this book, in that it is giving you the false idea that this book is mainly about Peter Claire, when it is in truth about a wide array of characters. This is a novel, of many stories about lovers and love, about good and evil. There are many villainous characters in this story, many of which happen to be women, one of the main villains happens to be the almost-Queen, Kirsten. Although she isn’t so much a villain as she is a selfish brat who expects people to be 100% devoted to her and let no one or thing share in that and who’s only concern is herself 110% of the time. The book is an unwinding of and revelations of many characters who are all connected in some way, and in the end you feel satisfied that everyone got exactly what they wanted and quite possibly what they deserved. The characters that you will love are, indeed Peter Clare and his love, Emilia. Below is my favorite excerpt of this book, and actually does reveal Rose Tremains beautiful writing style:

“Then they stand just apart and stare at each other, and wonder whether they feel as Adam felt and as Eve felt when they contemplated themselves in paradise, and knew that, of all the wonders God had created, the man and the woman were the most extraordinary. They do not feel the shiver of autumn in the air. They are only distantly aware of the luminous sky and the white doves. One of the golden pheasants lets out a loud, irritable squawk (as though it thought that it, with all its superior finery, should be the object of their rapture) but they pay it no attention. They are face to face with all that they have longed for through the summer and they let it hold them perfectly still, as though caught in a trance, as though they might stand that way for ever.”

I cannot say that I loved this book, but I did like it. I think the part that bothered me was how the book would jump from one person’s point-of-view to the next at very short intervals, it almost felt soap opera-ish in that aspect. I don’t mind seeing the story, or in this case, many stories unfold in a single book under different points-of-view, but this felt much to choppy and my attention for the book would start to wane. When asked by my husband if I liked this book, my response was, “well the fact that it took so long for me to read should partially answer this question.” But the fact that I indeed did finish the books indicates that the book was worth of reading. And of course you don’t need me to tell you that, it IS an award winner. While I may have had a hard time with the books jumpiness, and I definitely would not rate this book among my favorites, this book is surely worth your time!

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