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Martin Simmonds’ father tells him, “Never trust a musician when he speaks about love.” The advice comes too late. Martin already loves Dovidl Rapoport, an eerily gifted Polish violin prodigy whose parents left him in the Simmonds’s care before they perished in the Holocaust. For a time the two boys are closer than brothers. But on the day he is to make his official debut, Dovidl disappears. Only 40 years later does Martin get his first clue about what happened to him.
In this ravishing novel of music and suspense, Norman Lebrecht unravels the strands of love, envy and exploitation that knot geniuses to their admirers. In doing so he also evokes the fragile bubble of Jewish life in prewar London; the fearful carnival of the Blitz, and the gray new world that emerged from its ashes. Bristling with ideas, lambent with feeling, The Song of Names is a masterful work of the imagination.
“The Song of Names vividly brought back to me the horrors of war-torn England, where I spent my childhood years. In spirit it is reminiscent of Dickens, and in temperament of Dostoyevsky and Isaac Bashevis Singer. Yet it is entirely unique as well as gripping—a masterpiece of a novel.” —Ida Haendler, violinist and author of Woman with Violin
“Having judged Norman Lebrecht somewhat imperfectly through his trenchant, occasionally acerbic observations of my profession, I was surprised and delighted by his fastidious, sensitive and unvarnished tale of the life and times of a young musician. Such good writing.” —Neville Marriner, Founder, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
“Anybody who takes music seriously has been reading Norman Lebrecht for years—but who knew he was a novelist? What a pleasure to read a serious work of fiction with such deep underpinnings in history and aesthetics.” —Tim Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning music critic, author of Dawn Powell: A Biography
“A wonderful, magical read. Norman Lebrecht offers insight into the human condition and the world of music. The images linger in the mind well after one has finished the book.” —Leonard Slatkin, Music Director, National Symphony Orchestra
“Norman Lebrecht’s award-winning first novel deals with two worlds he know like few others—Jewish London and classical music. To call it an unusual story would be an understatement; it is an impressive achievement that grips the reader’s attention from beginning to end. It is the best novel on these two worlds that I have read in many a year.” —Walter Laqueur, author of Generation Exodus: The Fate of Young Jewish Refugees from Nazi Germany