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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Book Review



I'm a hunter. I hunt weekly at the public library for good authors. In the case of Laurel Corona, she found me - via this blog. Who knew that sharing my musings with the world would bring me a new story teller!

I love stories well told. I love it when authors manage to craft words into an emotion, trigger a memory, or bring a greater understanding of the human condition. I especially love it when they set their stories in a culture that may be familiar - or unfamiliar - and mix in a dollop of what it means to be human, to be creative.

After reading Penelope's Daughter a few months ago I checked the local library for Corona's The Four Seasons. They didn't have it but were willing to bring it in on inter-library loan. The local library is pretty good about buying new books, but it's December and their book buying budget for the year is about used up and since this is an older title, they didn't want to purchase it for their collection. :(

The story takes place in Vivaldi's Vienna beginning in the late 1600's into the early 1700's. A great deal of the story line embraces the music of the time in a way that makes me want to listen to Vivaldi's music. I'm not well educated about classical music - most of my knowledge about music comes from accordian lessons, then choir and then ballet. My listening preferences are generally rock music (the rhythm is great to weave to!), some folk, some classical jazz - pretty eclectic, really - but not a lot of classical music.

So for this story to make me want to listen to Vivaldi is saying a lot.

I'm going to quote two passages from The Four Seasons just to give a flavour of the power of Corona's observations and wordsmithing:

The end of the motet began with slow, melancholic notes on the low strings of Maddalena's violin, accompanied by a cello and a delicate pizzicato on the other strings. "Gloria Patri, et Filio..." Chiaretta began. When they reached the next words of the doxology, "et Spiritui Sancto" she hung on to the last note, allowing Maddalena to pick up the beginning of the melody before her voice fell off. Then, when Maddalena reached the same point, she held her last note while Chiaretta picked the melody up again in the same fashion, making transfer after seamless transfer between voice and violin, over, under, around, like fabric woven by an invisible hand. Chiaretta's voice climbed higher, and Maddalena went with her like an echo. Then they were together again, finishing in unison, their music rising and falling like the sound of God breathing.


A couple of pages later:

"Et Jesum benedictum," Chiaretta began, wrapping her arms around herself as she melted into the beauty of the simple tune. "O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria." The most sincere of love songs to the Virgin Mary filled the chapel, though it felt no louder than a whisper, and at the end the music simply evaporated.

Chiaretta felt drops of perspiration making their way into the small of her back as she opened her eyes. The fading last note of a composition always sucked something out of the air in the chapel, creating a momentary vacuum before the music was entirely gone and the ordinary world restored. But this time that void in sound was not there. Rising up from the floor of the chapel was not the sound of shuffling feet, clearing throats, or murmured exchanges of approval in a place where applause was not allowed. She looked through the grille and saw the entire congregration on its feet clapping.

Maddalena came up and put her arms around her sister. "You were perfect," she said. "Look at them!"

"So were you," Chiaretta said, her voice hoarse with emotion. Together they left the balcony while the audience, having recovered its decorum, watched in silence as their silhouettes disappeared.

If you don't know a lot about music it doesn't really matter. There is a glossary in the back of the book but the context explains enough (and perhaps I know enough about music terms to begin with) that the story flows in and around the musical terminology. And for us fibre fanatics, Maddelana is also a lacemaker so lots of references to lace. :)

The really good news is that I won't have to wait long for the next book - Finding Emilie will be on the book stands next spring. And Laurel Corona is well along the path of her next book. I shall look forward to both with great anticipation.

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