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The Courage Consort: Three Novellas (2002)

by Michel Faber

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3491473,038 (3.32)26
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The Courage Consort, possibly the seventh best-known a cappella vocal ensemble in Britain, are given two weeks in a Belgian chateau to rehearse their latest commission, the monstrously complicated Partitum Mutante. But can the piece be performed? Does it matter that its composer is a maniac best known for attacking his wife with a stiletto shoe at the baggage reclaim of Milan airport? Can the five members of the Consort endure their own sexual tensions and wildly differing temperaments? And what is the inhuman voice that calls out to them from the woods at night? The esoteric world of avant-garde classical music is the unlikely setting for a story of rare power - perhaps the most moving Michel Faber has yet written.

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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
This is a short, tight, novella, with nary a spare word used.

It is the story of a 5 piece acapella group, who have agreed to try out a new piece written by a very rich (and somewhat "otherworldy" mentally) German and get two weeks in a Belgian Château to practise. The novella starts with Catherine - married to the group's founder Roger Courage - coming out the other side of psychological problems, which include depression and a hinted-at suicide attempt the year before.

They meet up at the Château and there are soon tensions (both mental and sexual) underlying the daily practising. Dagmar - the other female in the group, who has brought her baby son Axel with her - loves biking and mountaineering, and soon begins an unlikely friendship with Catherine simply by going out biking daily and inviting Catherine to come with her. Daily exercise, with someone who doesnt seem to judge her or put her under pressure (plus no longer taking the anti depressants) goes much to changing Catherine during the book, to the point where casual acquaintances dont recognise her at first.

Catherine's insomnia makes her thing she hears human like cries in the woods at night Dagmar says she doesnt hear them. Catherine goes out walking one night, spending all night in the wood and comes back the following morning in a dream like state; what happened over night and whether the screams were real are never revealed, which some readers find frustrating, but if the novella is read as a traditional Gothic novel (The Mysteries of Udolpho, or Jane Austen's wind up of "Northanger Abbey") then these situations rarely are.

Catherine is the most rounded of the characters in the book, with the others being a bit one dimensional, but that is in part because Catherine has spent so long in her own world she hasnt been interested in anyone else, so only knows what she knows. She grows the most, since that at the beginning she doesnt even know what time of day it is, at the end she is making decisions for the group and is able to put her foot down to her husband

A question I ask when reading short stories and novellas: Could the story still stand if it was longer? This one I dont know, maybe adding in a little character development of the other 4 singers, expanding on the sexual tension outside of Roger and Catherine, but there is little more that I would add.
  nordie | Oct 14, 2023 |
Three novellas: The Courage Consort. The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps. The Fahrenheit Twins.
  JimandMary69 | Aug 19, 2023 |
Faber has maybe the most unique writing style I can think of. Three great novellas. ( )
  bcpeterson727 | Dec 4, 2019 |
Review: The Courage Consort by Michel Faber.

I think Michel Faber is a wonderful writer. Faber writes original plots that takes the reader to places and times of interest. However, The Courage Consort consisted of three novellas’ that did not reach his high standards that his novels do. Two out of the three of the stories were interesting enough to keep you reading but not with flare.

The first story is about a group of opera singers going to a mansion in the middle of the woods to practice their latest show with privacy. Even though the story offers touching moments, in the end, it ends up nowhere.

The second story is a mystery about an archeologist’s passion with an old document that has just been discovered. The archeologist is also working with a group in the ruins of a museum in some far off city. It was entertaining but somewhat repetitive.

The third story is worth the read. A little corny but understandable. It’s about a set of twin whose mother dies and their father sends them off to bury her in some far away place. That’s one way of getting rid of the kids……but surprise! They found their way back home.
( )
  Juan-banjo | May 31, 2016 |
What to say, what to say. The Courage Consort is a somewhat disfunctional choir group that retreats to a castle in Belgium to practice a complicated avant-garde musical piece. Focus is on the relationships between the characters, and Faber manages to present these in an adequately interesting way.

I do however feel that there are a lot of loose ends. Some interesting characteristics are brought forward, but are never really developed throughout the story. This leaves the reader with a novella that could have been so much more than just a novella. Which is a pity. ( )
  WorldInColour | Oct 12, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
So word by word, and line by line, the dead man touch'd me from the past...

Tennyson, In Memoriam (The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps)
Dedication
To all those who sing lustily and with good courage, and to all who only wish they could. (The Courage Consort)
In memory of Panda (The Fahrenheit Twins)
First words
On the day the good news arrived, Catherine spent her first few waking hours toying with the idea of jumping out the window of her apartment.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Do not combine with the edition of The Courage Consort containing only the title novel.
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Fiction. Literature. HTML:

The Courage Consort, possibly the seventh best-known a cappella vocal ensemble in Britain, are given two weeks in a Belgian chateau to rehearse their latest commission, the monstrously complicated Partitum Mutante. But can the piece be performed? Does it matter that its composer is a maniac best known for attacking his wife with a stiletto shoe at the baggage reclaim of Milan airport? Can the five members of the Consort endure their own sexual tensions and wildly differing temperaments? And what is the inhuman voice that calls out to them from the woods at night? The esoteric world of avant-garde classical music is the unlikely setting for a story of rare power - perhaps the most moving Michel Faber has yet written.

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Book description
Contains 3 novellas:
  • The Courage Consort
  • The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps
  • The Fahreinheit Twins
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