Saturday, October 4, 2008
Music And Silence by Rose Tremain
This book entranced me from the very first page. It is easily the best book I've read in months, perhaps the entire year. Music and Silence, winner of the Whitbread Award in 1999, is Rose Tremain's seventh novel.
The book is set in Denmark, at King Christian's court in the 1630's. The King is troubled, beset by financial ruin for the country and an unfaithful wife, Kristin, that he still loves. His only solace is music, and he has an orchestra on call at all times. One new member, Peter Claire, is a lutist, and so handsome that the King calls him his "angel" and calls on him to play for him whenever he is especially troubled. Claire, in turn, falls in love with Emilia, who is the king's wife's companion. Emilia has come to court to escape her home after her mother has died and her father has remarried.
The lives of these characters, and many others, are intertwined in a delicious mix of love and hate, strategies and failed plans, music and philosophy. Relationships between men and women are explored and the strengths of both men and women in the time period are displayed. The reader also learns some Danish history, and how life at court was for various individuals.
I can't remember a book with better character portrayals. Each character, whether major or minor, was finely drawn, so that the reader felt she could recognize them if she happened upon them in the street. Kristin, the king's wife, is a villian that I'll remember for quite a while; a more self-centered woman cannot be found in literature. I couldn't wait to get home each day to read more of the these characters and the lives they lived. This book is very highly recommended.