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Music & silence by Rose Tremain
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Music & silence (original 1999; edition 2000)

by Rose Tremain

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1,058257,934 (3.76)206
Member:wandering_star
Title:Music & silence
Authors:Rose Tremain
Info:New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2000.
Collections:Your library, books I have read, @JV
Rating:****
Tags:fiction, previous, historical, royalty, C17, @jv-rr

Work details

Music & Silence by Rose Tremain (1999)

  1. 10
    The Royal Physician's Visit: A Novel by Per Olov Enquist (rrmmff2000)
    rrmmff2000: Covers another earlier period of Danish royal history, complete with its own machinations and intrigues.
  2. 00
    The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier (SHBR123)
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English (24)  French (1)  All languages (25)
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
Music and Silence is a historical novel, set in 1629-1630 in Denmark at the court of King Christian IV - who is depressingly short on money and spends much of his time trying to come up with get-rich-quick schemes that tend to go horribly wrong. He also has nightmares and general hang-ups from his youth and requires the constant presence of his musicians - who he keeps pent-up in a freezing wine cellar that they might pipe seemingly magical music into his throne room unseen. His new favorite is Peter Claire, the golden blond English lutenist "angel", who reminds him of his boyhood friend. We also follow Christian's sex-crazed selfish wife Kirsten and her infidelities, her lady-in-waiting Emilia (who catches Peter's eye), Emilia's family back in Jutland who is dealing with a similarly sexually manipulative stepmother and her odd (magical plot moppet) little brother Marcus who can imagine himself into the being of animals (or something). Occasionally we also glimpse Peter's former lover, an Italian lady married to a music-obsessed Irish count, King Christian's scheming mother, Kirsten's scheming mother, King Charles I of England and the fates of the villagers near the failed silver mine.

In short, true to its title, Tremain weaves different strains of story to create a whole meditation on insanity, power struggles, happiness and selfishness and gender politics. And I just didn't like it. I didn't care for any of the characters who all seemed painfully self-centered and uncaring of their actions' effects on others - unless they were reveling in the pain they caused. I found the blatant sexual manipulations by both Kirsten and Magdalena incredibly distasteful, and neither of them showed much in terms of redeeming qualities. And the women's use of sex as a tool was echoed by men's casual contemplations of rape as an imposition of their rightful power and violence (sexual or otherwise) as an attempt to subvert and take back the power the women gained through sex.

The only stories I actually enjoyed reading were Charlotte's (for the most part) and Francesca's (after the end of her husband's crazed violence). But even in each of these storylines were warnings of the dangers a woman faced if she bowed to the societally accepted role of wife and mother (even for love) - as she becomes completely dependent on him and his continued goodwill.

So I started off the year with a literary melancholy contemplation of power dynamics, the role of women, the nature of love and madness. And I am now firmly convinced that it is time to return to my 'happy' books as my forays into the literary world always seem to leave me unsettled and irritated.

More posted at A Hoyden's Look at Literature. ( )
  Caramellunacy | Jan 18, 2014 |
Music & Silence brought to life the most memorable characters. King Christian IV of Denmark is an absolute ruler who commands his orchestra to play from the cellar, yet he is almost a slave to his Consort, Kirsten, who has to be one of the most selfish, petty, vulgar, yet humorous characters I have ever met in fiction. And one who I actually felt pity for at the end. Peter Claire, the talented and decent lutest for the King, holds the story together yet is not the focus. Emilia, Kristen's "general lady" truly has a good heart. Her stepmother, Magadelena, a big, baudy peasant woman has a sexual appetite that includes her stepsons. George Middleton, Peter's future brother-in-law is an overweight successful gentleman who is genuinely in love with Charlotte, a young naïve innocent who is lives a charmed life surrounded by people who love her. Sophie, the Dowager Queen, and Ellen Marsvin, Kirsten's mother, are survivors saved by cynicism. No one is perfect, no one is totally evil (well maybe Kirsten), no one totally wins and no one totally loses. The short chapters told from different viewpoints give a quality of different instruments playing in the orchestra, some are direct and bold while others merely provide the background. I particularly looked forward to reading Kristen's version "From her private papers." Besides great characters, Tremain does an excellent job of painting the cold and dampness of Denmark. Although a different time and place, a different writing style, and different characters, if you enjoyed "Crimson Petal and White" you will certainly enjoy "Music and Silence" - even more so. ( )
  maryreinert | Aug 16, 2013 |
Beautifully written and an enjoyable story to listen to - even though it was 18 hours! I am amazed at the research that must have been done to even dream of this intricate plot (set of plots). Very rich literary fare. ( )
  Lcwilson45 | May 26, 2013 |
This is Rose Tremain's eighth novel and is an entertaining tale that also exhibits a compelling psychological and moral density. It begins in 1629 as Peter Claire, a young English "lutenist" who’s been summoned to the court of King Christian IV, arrives in Denmark to become the newest member of the royal orchestra. Following this beginning Tremain presents a number of increasingly interlocking narratives (each keyed to a different character's consciousness), She explores a considerable range of human responses to, and involvements with, the overt expressiveness of ``music'' and the ``silence'' that pervades hearts and minds given to introversion and secrecy. Christian's embattled boyhood and sudden ascension to the throne is a sort of Hans Christian Andersen fable of a mind eagerly expanding, then possessively contracting as it dramatizes a hungry spirit's resolute perfectionism. The "confessions" of Christian's adulterous consort Kirsten vividly demonstrate her self-indulgence and subterfuge. And the parallel tale of the love between Peter Claire and Kirsten's favorite handmaiden, Emilia, who’s also been traumatized by a complex legacy of intrigue and lust—ironically echoes the royal drama. Tremain's deepening characterization of King Christian—both as an incarnation of acquisitiveness who believes in his own divine right, and a sensitive seeker of higher things—is masterly and, ultimately, very moving. ( )
  jwhenderson | May 9, 2013 |
First class account of young musicians in the court of a king, contains one graphic account, but otherwise very good and very well written.
  wonderperson | Mar 29, 2013 |
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For my daughter, Eleanor


Love always

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A lamp is lit.
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Book description
Reading *Music & Silence* is like eating a meal expertly crafted from the freshest produce: rich, satisfying, deceptively simple, and completely nourishing.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743418263, Paperback)

Rose Tremain deserves a hallelujah chorus dedicated to her alone. A decade after the appearance of Restoration, with its superb evocation of the British baroque, comes her glorious and enthralling Music and Silence. Like the earlier novel, this one is a treasure house of delights--as haunting as it is pleasurable and teeming with real and imagined characters, intrigues, searches, and betrayals. The vivid scenes loop in and out, back and forth, like overlapping and repeated chords in a single, delicious composition.

The year is 1629, and King Christian IV of Denmark is living in a limbo of fear for his life and rage over his country's ruin, not to mention his wife's not-so-secret adultery. He consoles himself with impossible dreams and with music, the latter performed by his royal orchestra in a freezing cellar while he listens in his cozy chamber directly above. Music, he hopes, will create the sublime order he craves. The queen, meanwhile, detests nothing more. The duty of assuaging the king's miseries falls to his absurdly handsome English lutenist, Peter Claire, who resigns himself to his (so to speak) underground success:

They begin. It seems to Peter Claire as if they are playing only for themselves, as if this is a rehearsal for some future performance in a grand, lighted room. He has to keep reminding himself that the music is being carried, as breath is carried through the body of a wind instrument, through the twisted pipes, and emerging clear and sharp in the Vinterstue, where King Christian is eating his breakfast.... He strives, as always, for perfection and, because he is playing and listening with such fierce concentration, doesn't notice the cold in the cellar as he thought he would, and his fingers feel nimble and supple.
Other stories, each of them full of fabulous invention, intertwine with these musical machinations. There is the tale of the king's mother, who hoards her gold in secret; the tormenting memory of his boyhood friend, Bror; and the romance between Peter Claire and the queen's downtrodden maid, Emilia. And while the author paid meticulous mind to her period settings, her take on desire and longing has a very modern intensity to it, as if an ancient score were being performed on a contemporary (and surpassingly elegant) instrument. --Ruth Petrie

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:30:34 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Brought to the Danish court in 1629 to serve in the king's orchestra, English lutenist Peter Claire soon finds himself caught up in royal intrigue when he falls for a young woman who is the companion of the queen.

(summary from another edition)

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