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The Prague Sonata by Bradford Morrow

The Prague Sonata

by Bradford Morrow

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With World War II raging, Otylie splits a sonata into three parts, hoping to keep the treasured score from the hands of the Nazi's. In present day, Meta Taverner, a musicologist, is handed 1/3 of the manuscript and tasked with finding the other two pieces. Her journey leads her to Prague, where she meticulously searches house to house for information on Otylie.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. Meta was an interesting and well developed character. I did find Whittman to be a poor villain, he could have been developed in a much more fluid way, leaving Meta with real challenges and obstacles. I did find the constant switching of people and timelines to be distracting. It would have been nice if the past timeline was done in a chronological manner. 4 out of 5 stars. ( )
  JanaRose1 | Apr 3, 2018 |
"Bradford Morrow has composed his magnum opus, "The Prague Sonata," a novel more than a dozen years in the making . . . In the early days of the new millennium, pages of a weathered original sonata manuscript--the gift of a Czech immigrant living out the end of her life in Queens--come into the hands of a young musicologist..."
  AMS_musicology | Feb 19, 2018 |
Young musicologist saves a precious manuscript and finds the other two parts. Meets nefarious Prague musicologist along the way, but also nice journalist.
  bmcbook | Dec 27, 2017 |
The Prague Sonata is a bit of history, mystery, romance, and quest. It tells us the story of Meta and her quest to unite a manuscript that was divided in 1938 as the Nazis marched into Prague.

Meta was once an aspiring world-class pianist but an accident took that future away from her. She adjusted her ambitions and moved on, settling for the much smaller ambition of being a musicologist and giving piano lessons. But life had more interesting plans for her. A dying woman who heard Meta play gave her an old musical score and a quest, to reunite that score with the two other pieces that were split up in hopes that at least some part of it would survive the Occupation.

It sounds an impossible task, go to Prague and cast about for a trail that started in 1938 and went cold by 1945. Would you give up your studies and students to set out on a seemingly impossible search with scant information to a country where you don’t speak the language? Would you persist despite nothing but dead ends and discouragement? Meta does and I think that is why it is important that author Bradford Morrow’s decision to write her as someone who dreamed big and had those dreams torn away is crucial to the success of Meta as a character. Without that devastating loss, her persistence would not make sense.

If I were a listmaker and made a list of my favorite books, Morrow’s Giovanni’s Gift and Trinity Fields would be on it. This made me eager to read The Prague Sonata. I did enjoy the story and Morrow’s writing, though it won’t make that same list. The plot is interesting, though the machinations of a famed Czech music historian are over-explained. Wittman’s just a few steps short of Snidely Whiplash, recounting his plots and motivations to co-conspirators and his opposition, Meta’s mentor Mandelbaum. He is the evil mastermind who keeps talking to the hero instead of running him into the buzzsaw, thereby failing and ensuring the series will continue.

Morrow includes a lot of prosaic details in this book. This weighted it down for me, though it also gave it so much verisimilitude I had to look up lost sonatas and verify it was fiction. The central plot device, the idea of a lost sonata by one of the greats of classical music is all too possible. I know it the inclusion of petty details, the packing, unpacking, the daily habits are the things that made me wonder if this was true. It felt reported, not imagined. That’s how talented Morrow is, but for me, even though I understand why that level of detail is included, I sometimes longed for the story to move along.

One of my big problems with the story was a bit of the irrationality of the initial choice to divide up the score among three people so the Nazis would never get the whole of it, in hopes someday it might be found and united. Why didn’t she just hide it and tell the other two where it was hidden. That would mean three chances that the information would survive the war, three chances to find it and bring it back to the world. Instead, she divided it among three people going from three chances to survive the war to three chance to be lost. I appreciate that she kicks herself for that poor reasoning.

I received an e-galley of The Prague Sonata from the publisher through NetGalley.

https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2017/10/15/9780802127150/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Oct 15, 2017 |
This book is going to be really huge but for those of you who can resist the upwelling roar of the crowd, I would like to suggest that it could have been cut by a third and been much better. Mr. Morrow writes description well and his use of musicology in the text is lovely. His dialogue, however, needed a lot more editing than it got from his team.

I received a review copy of "The Prague Sonata" by Bradford Morrow (Grove Atlantic) through NetGalley.com. ( )
  Dokfintong | Oct 9, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802127150, Hardcover)

A Buzz Books pick for fall/winter

Music and war, war and music―these are the twin motifs around which Bradford Morrow, recipient of the Academy Award in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, has composed his magnum opus, The Prague Sonata, a novel more than a dozen years in the making.

In the early days of the new millennium, pages of a worn and weathered original sonata manuscript―the gift of a Czech immigrant living out her final days in Queens―come into the hands of Meta Taverner, a young musicologist whose concert piano career was cut short by an injury. To Meta’s eye, it appears to be an authentic eighteenth-century work; to her discerning ear, the music rendered there is commanding, hauntingly beautiful, clearly the undiscovered composition of a master. But there is no indication of who the composer might be. The gift comes with the request that Meta attempt to find the manuscript’s true owner―a Prague friend the old woman has not heard from since the Second World War forced them apart―and to make the three-part sonata whole again. Leaving New York behind for the land of Dvořák and Kafka, Meta sets out on an unforgettable search to locate the remaining movements of the sonata and uncover a story that has influenced the course of many lives, even as it becomes clear that she isn’t the only one after the music’s secrets.

Magisterially evoking decades of Prague’s tragic and triumphant history, from the First World War through the soaring days of the Velvet Revolution, and moving from postwar London to the heartland of immigrant America, The Prague Sonata is both epic and intimate, evoking the ways in which individual notes of love and sacrifice become part of the celebratory symphony of life.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 21 Apr 2017 13:58:44 -0400)

"A literary quest novel that travels from Nazi-occupied Prague to turn-of-the-millennium New York as a young musicologist seeks to solve the mystery behind an eighteenth-century sonata manuscript"--Amazon.com.

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