Appassionata by Eva Hoffman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book is more of the 4.5 stars variety for me. The story is about Isabel Merton, a concert pianist, who ends up in a relationship with a man involved in the politics of volatile Chechnya. The amazing part of the novel isn't the story, but how the writer has capture the emotions of music in words. There are portions where various thoughts of people attending Isabel's concerts are written in streams overlaying each other, as well as Isabel's own thoughts while she plays and I wanted to shout, "Yes! This is what it is like!" So few people know, and fewer can explain, and Hoffman has.
The book has no chapters, but there are sections of Isabel preparing for concerts in various cities, interspersed with sporadic sections of her in the "in between" (usually while traveling) where she reads the journal of one of her former teachers. There is also the story of her childhood, particularly of her brother, which has a clear impact on her own life and outlook. Because there is no pause, no end, I found it difficult to stop reading, and wanting to start from the beginning when I came back to it. In fact, that would have been an homage to my own piano training, my own teacher who would announce "Again!" after any little error.
Beyond the writing about music, which I connected fully with, is a commentary on what revolution, war, terrorism, and violence mean to us in our current society. Do we take it seriously enough? Does it even matter to us? Do we diminish it or ignore it? Do we take responsibility for our own part? The novel does an interesting job of asking the questions and demonstrating several different answers in the perspectives and actions of several of the characters.