Friday, 17 July 2020

Music And Silence by Rose Tremain


Music And Silence by Rose Tremain
First published by Chatto & Windus in 1999.

How I got this book:
Bought the paperback at a charity shop

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


In the year 1629, a young English lutenist named Peter Claire arrives at the Danish Court to join King Christian IV's Royal Orchestra. From the moment when he realises that the musicians perform in a freezing cellar underneath the royal apartments, Peter Claire understands that he's come to a place where the opposing states of light and dark, good and evil, are waging war to the death.

Designated the King's 'Angel' because of his good looks, he finds himself falling in love with the young woman who is the companion of the King's adulterous and estranged wife, Kirsten. With his loyalties fatally divided between duty and passion, how can Peter Claire find the path that will realise his hopes and save his soul?

I've thoroughly enjoyed Rose Tremain's work in the past, her short story collection Evangelista's Fan being one that I really raved about, but I was a little disappointed with Music And Silence. That's not to say this is a poor novel, far from it but, like with Anne Tyler, I have certain high expectations for Tremain and I don't feel that Music And Silence quite got there.

I did love the historical evocation throughout the story. 1620s and 1630s royal Denmark comes vividly to life in all its bawdy, back-stabbing glory and Kirsten, King Christian IV's wife-but-not-actually-the-queen (it's a sore point!) has got to be one of my favourite female characters ever. She's gloriously confident in her sexuality, entirely self-centred and without a single shred of maternal conscience despite being the mother of numerous children. King Christian is also an inspired creation, quirky and tormented, but with a heart of gold despite everything his family and court take from him. When these characters were centre stage I read on happily, however the people I felt I was most supposed to empathise with, the romantic leads Peter Claire and Kirsten's maid, Emilia, couldn't raise my enthusiasm in the same way. They felt insipid in comparison to the vibrant life around them. Peter Claire is a male version of the typical princess character - stunningly beautiful, but without much in the way of personality - and Emilia suffers from the Dickensian syndrome of the eligible young woman having to always be perfectly pure and demure. I wondered if Tremain had deliberately used these stereotypes in order to heighten contrast with the royals and with Emilia's own wonderfully ghastly family.  However, whether this was the case or not, the main romantic storyline just didn't work for me thereby leaving a significant hole in the centre of the novel.

I would still go on to read more Tremain novels and, indeed, already have another borrowable one, The Gustav Sonata, lined up so fingers crossed I can feel a stronger connection to it.

Etsy Find!
by Taruni Art in
Russia

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Books by Rose Tremain / Historical fiction / Books from England

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