Some books can really draw you in with their cover art. I’ve spent many happy hours roaming through Barnes and Noble picking up books on the strength of their covers alone. In fact, it is how I have found two of my favorite series of books. Those being The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon and The Peculiar Crimes Unit by Christopher Fowler. The cover art reached out and grabbed me and I ended up getting absorbed. When I caught sight of the beautiful image on the front of this book the same feeling overtook me, I had to have it. It certainly helped that I have an absolute love of classical music including that of Mozart. I opened this book with excitement and high hopes.
I am sorry to say that my excitement quickly dissipated. This book is written around facts known and/or speculated about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s life. The narrator is Mozart’s sister, Nannerl, and she has all the personality of a dead fish. I sincerely hope she wasn’t this dull in life. We begin with her learning about her brother’s death. Her brother that she hadn’t spoken to in years. The brother that she had not shared the family inheritance with because she felt slighted by him. Yet she displays grief and pain when she learns of his passing. Give me a break. If you don’t care enough to keep in touch with someone in life then you have no reason to be so broken by their death.
Be that as it may, her brother’s death has an affect on Nannerl, and though you’ve hardly met her you are led to believe that his death completely changes her personality. The reader doesn’t get to verify this as you know practically nothing about her before this supposed change. So, what does she do? She leaves her only living child that she claims to love at the hands of a husband she doesn’t particularly trust or care for and goes to Vienna to Mozart’s grave and to see her sister in law.
There is a lot of political intrigue and conspiracy revolving through the story. Nannerl suspects that her brother was murdered and weaves herself in the lives of her brother’s friends and acquaintances in order to learn the truth. No, that’s not as exciting as it sounds. She claims to be a stalwart catholic and attends services, prays, and tries to speak and behave in a way that God will approve of. While portraying herself this way she also engages in an affair. Her companion in this act is far more interesting than she is and he at least has some personality that does not revolve around religion.
I understand that during the time in which this book takes places the faithfully religious were commonplace though today it seems like an odd thing. I have nothing against their beliefs, only in the fact that she allows her faith to make her dull. Oh no! Someone said something indelicate! I must appear shocked and surprised! – That is her in a nutshell. Anyway…
Nannerl in the end does discover the truth behind her brother’s life and death and becomes closer to his wife and children in the process which is certainly nice. It is not enough to salvage this story for me. It was a struggle to finish this book. I can appreciate the story this book revolves around without enjoying the book itself though I can see how it would be enjoyable for some people. I’m just not one of them.