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The BookBrowse Review

Published September 20, 2017

ISSN: 1930-0018

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Book Jacket

The Prague Sonata
by Bradford Morrow
3 Oct 2017
528 pages
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
ISBN-13: 9780802127150
Critics:
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From the critically acclaimed author Bradford Morrow, 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.

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 Dvorák 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.

"Starred Review. [A] textured, style-rich historical novel ... enjoyable for anyone who loves a symphony of words." - Booklist

"Music infuses Morrow's descriptions of war, revolution, peace, love, friendship, and betrayal. Finely crafted storytelling ... The reading pleasure comes from both Meta's pursuit and the prose, which brims with musical, historical, and cultural detail." - Publishers Weekly

"An elegant foray into music and memory." - Kirkus

"A big, fun, page-turning rush of a novel, with Bard professor Morrow (The Forgers) writing wonderfully about music (Meta isn't just a classicist but a metalhead, too)." - Library Journal

"Bradford Morrow is an astonishing writer. His short fictions are brilliantly macabre, and his longer fictions are epic adventures in which obsessive particularities - in this case the provenance of a piano sonata presumed to be of the late 18th century - transform entire lives in the most unexpected and remarkable ways. " - Joyce Carol Oates

"The Prague Sonata is music scored for the reader's imagination, expertly arranged - at once suspenseful and meditative, classical and surprising, devastating and genuinely inspiring... Bradford Morrow's writing is as haunting and as beautiful as the fabled sonata it describes." - Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!

"The Prague Sonata is a treasure of a novel, a deliciously enveloping musical mystery which I read with marvel and gusto. ... I'm absolutely bowled over by Morrow's ability to use dialogue, which seems to steer the novel so effortlessly. A virtuoso performance!" - Diane Ackerman, author of The Zookeeper's Wife

"The Prague Sonata is a mighty, epic novel that only Bradford Morrow could have written...The Prague Sonata challenges us to consider what it means to save culture in the face of forces that want to achieve power at its expense. Morrow has given us a masterful novel that's necessary for our times." - Brian Evenson, author of The Open Curtain

"This rich, masterful novel brilliantly explores the complex tumble of history, the human capacity for good and for evil, the fragile but redeeming glory of art. Morrow has long been one of America's finest novelists. And this humanely epic tale is his finest book." - Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Perfume River

"Bradford Morrow has written his masterpiece. The Prague Sonata is a rich, joyous, complex journey into the city of Prague, the claims made upon us by music, and several dark, dark corners of human experience." - Peter Straub, author of Interior Darkness: Selected Stories

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Bradford Morrow grew up in Denver, Colorado, and has lived or worked in a variety of places. As a teenager, he traveled through rural Honduras as a member of the Amigos de las Americas program, serving as a medical volunteer in the summer of 1967. The following year he was awarded an American Field Service scholarship to finish his last year of high school as a foreign exchange student at a Liceo Scientifico in Cuneo, Italy. In 1973, he took time off from studying at the University of Colorado to live in Paris for a year. After doing graduate work at Yale University, he moved to Santa Barbara, California where he worked as a bookseller until relocating to New York City in 1981, where he founded the literary journal Conjunctions and began writing novels. Bradford Morrow is the author of many books, including The Diviner's Tale. He lives in New York City.

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