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Mayra Calvani

Book Review: The Violin Lover, by Susan Glickman

March 25, 2009 at 11:14 AM

The Violin LoverThe Violin Lover is a beautifully written novel, one that fans of violin music, as well as readers of serious literary fiction, will particularly appreciate.

The story takes place in England during the start of the Second World War, just before the invasion of Hitler into Germany. Young widow Clara Weiss lives with her three young children in a Jewish sector of London. Her oldest son, Jacob, is eleven years old and a gifted pianist. Clara lives for her children and is extremely protective towards them, her nurturing qualities sometimes falling into compulsive obsession.

At a Christmas concert one night, Clara is introduced to Ned Abraham, not only a medical doctor but also an accomplished violinist. At once, Clara is taken with the tall, mysterious man with the dark hair and black, deep-set eyes. Jacob’s music teacher insists he should play a piece with Jacob in the future, and this is how Ned takes young Jacob under his wing. Soon, the attraction between Clara and Ned intensifies, and they become secret lovers. In time, and as their relationship progresses, Clara begins to feel jealous of Jacob and Ned’s bond and resents their friendship. Their liason, which is mostly characterized by Clara’s dependence and Ned’s indifference, ends up having tragic consequences for all involved.

The Violin Lover is a compelling, unusual read. Though it moved a bit slow in the beginning, it picked up pace after the first few chapters and by the middle I had become quite engrossed. Glickman is a fine writer and this shows in her smooth, sometimes symbolic prose. There are small segments in the story which really are allegories of Clara’s obsessive dependence and controlling behavior, like the part where she insists that ducks in the river must be fed or they’ll die; she’s unable to realize that ducks may very well survive on their own. This also symbolizes her over protectiveness toward her children, especially with Jacob, who is growing into a young man and needs more independence, something she is unable to offer.

The relationship between Clara and Ned is both dark and fascinating. Glickman’s has an obvious gift for characterization, as well as for showing the characters’ emotions rather than spelling them out. The story is mostly narrative with not as much dialogue as I expected. There are many sections where the story is quickly narrated instead of being shown with actual dialogue and characters’ actions, and this made the pace feel a bit rushed at times. It is a novel that will make readers ponder: who is the villain and who is the victim? Clara or Ned? I think readers will love and hate both of them at some point or another.

If you love classical music or play the piano or the violin, you will enjoy the music descriptions, told with the sensibility of someone who shares this same passion.

This novel is available on Amazon.

--Mayra Calvani, Violin and Books

From Tom Holzman
Posted on March 25, 2009 at 1:48 PM

Thanks for the detailed review.  The book looks very interesting, sharing at least some common territory with "The Song of Names" by Norman Lebrecht.  Have to see if the library has it.

From Mayra Calvani
Posted on March 26, 2009 at 8:59 AM

Thanks for the comment, Tom. I had not heard of Song of Names. I'll have to check it out.

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