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William E. (Honolulu, HI)
I thought that it would be an interesting read devoted to art music of the late 19th and early 20th century with a mystery thrown in. How could you lose? The book is a parallel to an actual murder by the composer Carlo Gesualdo; an interesting premise. For me the book bogs down in needless didacticism of the period and I found myself skipping portions of the book to "get to the plot." Engagement in the book and the characters never came and was actually relieved when I finished it. Perhaps it wasn't the right read for the time for me.
Dona N. (San Rafael, CA)
Murder, Music and Mystery
This is a rare combination which makes for an intelligent work of historical fiction. Well developed characters, sharp dialog, and an exciting plot result in a well-paced story. An intriguing and unique mystery in a musical setting.
Elaine Denise J. (Midland, TX)
Atonal As the Music Jessold Composed
Following the dress rehearsal of Jessold's opera Little Musgrave, Charles Jessold, is found shot dead beside a bed in which his soprano wife and her lover lie dead. Jessold's new opera was based on a folk song about a lord who slays his wife and her lover when he returns from the hunt and finds them in bed. Two other love triangles are intertwined within the novel: Carlo Gesualdo is an historical Italian composer who slew his wife in similar circumstances and the legend of King Mark, Tristan, and Isolde.
Carole A. (Denver, CO)
An intimate view of music, murder and the creative life
The story of Jessold's murder/suicide is told by a music critic and Jessold's long-time friend Leslie Shepherd. Sheperd and Jessold have spent time collecting folk songs where Jessold found the tale of Little Musgrave—the topic of his later opera. This is Stace's third novel and involves the atonal discordant music of the beginning of the Twentieth Century.
Too often, I felt that a stronger knowledge of music would have enhanced my appreciation of and understanding of the novel. Stace never made me believe, or feel, that Jessold was a composer of note. The friendship between Jessold and Sheperd seemed tenuous and I had to keep telling myself that they were supposed to have a strong friendship. I did not like any of the characters in this novel. Wesley Stace is a clever, polished writer and many of his sentences are gems. Stace also has a great sense of humor that shines in the writing, so I wish I could give a higher review of this title.
Literature frequently offers a chance to voyeur through the lives of others. Wesley Stace certainly offers that activity throughout this novel. The initial chapter offers great promise. Several ensuring chapters are somewhat tedious; however, having read Misfortune, the promise of a good writer remained. If you slug through the Jessold novel does pick up and is its own reward.
Rachel B. (Waynetown, IN)
Descriptive, rich and enjoyable. A touch slow in pace
Stace’s participation and knowledge of the musical world brings a vivid picture of the intrinsic ups and downs. The introspection and descriptions by the narrator are enlightening. The use of language, somewhat forgotten by many authors, is delightful and charming.
Not a mindless read for sure, but a thoughtful read that offered even more on the second reading. There is a plethora of research and avenues to offer a serious book club.
I was immediately drawn into the question of whether this was a story about HOW the event described in the first pages came to pass, or if it was about how that event did not happen as described. Along the way, I enjoyed the passion for music that the author shared through his characters, as well as the subtle wit and humor throughout. The only thing that bothered me was that very often I found that the narrator's excessive descriptions and musings tended to bog down the rhythm and take me out of the story fairly often. A little streamlining would push this story from a 4 to a 5 for me.
Julie B. (Menomonee Falls, WI)
As much as I wanted to like this book, I really did not. The language was hard to understand unless without being an expert in opera. The plot was very slow, and the characters were unlikable and flat. I did finish the book, but would not recommend it to anyone who is not intimately acquainted with the nuances of music, particularly opera.
Gary R. (bolingbrook, IL)
a book on a musician by a musician
I'm not normally a big fan of historical fiction but finding out that the author Wesley Stace is also the musician John Wesley Harding I thought I would give it a read.really glad I decided to, it's quite a good story told by the music critic Leslie Shepard,who befriends the up and coming composer Charles Jessold,it seems, at least to me, to mirror the opera Mr.Jessold was composing.The insights into the English society at that period of time, before the great war and after, were very interesting. The collecting and transcription of the folk songs of the countryside, the period during and after the war, all add to the authenticity of the story. But mostly it's the story of the rise and downward spiral of a musical genius by someone who knows. Give it a read, well worth the time.
Kaye D. (Huntley, IL)
Much as I tried couldn't read this book
The day after Thanksgiving and a morning of shopping I looked forward to sitting down and enjoying a good book. Unfortunately reading Charles Jessold, Considered As A Murderer wasn't the book. I had to force myself to keep reading and in all honesty finally just gave up. I kept telling myself that it would get better but after page 100 I was still forcing myself to keep reading one more page. I was really looking forward to doing a review of the whole book but just couldn't continue with it. It bored me to death.