I live in a house that's often filled with music, but it's not my particular specialty. My daughter plays the piano and violin, my middle child has an on-again off-again love of the violin, and my husband plays the piano. I love to hear instruments played, but I can't play a note myself. That doesn't affect my appreciation of music one bit. It's like being a reader who appreciates beautiful words but hasn't ever written a book, or an awestruck observer admiring a beautiful painting without ever having personally lifted a brush.
Art can be funny that way.
J.D. Landis's Longing is an ambitious novel. It sets out to tell not just the love story of Robert Schumann and Clara Wieck, but it also weaves in a remarkable number of other real historical characters, such as Chopin, Liszt, Goethe and even Hans Christian Andersen. The prose is lyrical. Glamour called it "Exquisite."
I completely agree.
Amazon reviews complain the book is "hard work," that the style is unnecessarily formal or scholarly. Personally, I think the style is appropriate for the level of scholarship, and suits the subject matter perfectly. There are footnotes in the novel, so that people like myself who aren't that well-versed in the lives of these great artists can have the option of learning more of the real history. Are those disruptive to the narrative flow? They can be. I skim them, reading those that interest me and skipping those that don't. That minimizes the distraction of them, so I can keep with the flow of the narrative.
Maybe it's the English major in me, but I'll never understand why anyone complains about complex writing. Modern minimalist prose can be lovely, and in some contexts it's well-suited to its subject matter, but there are other situations in which a different voice is called for, when the classical, heavy subject is well-paired with a more "meaty" prose style. And Longing is one of those cases.
Landis writes in a style appropriate to the historical period, and he does so brilliantly. I'd recommend the book to anyone with an interest in the cultural history of the 19th century. Whether or not you're particularly musical, the story is absolutely entrancing.
Published by Snowbooks