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Books About Music


This list provides an overview of fiction with a plot that predominantly features music, musicians or musical themes.

We welcome feedback, suggestions, additions, and corrections to this information.

Hidden Voices: The Orphan Musicians of Venice
Hidden Voices: The Orphan Musicians of Venice. Pat Lowery Collins. Candlewick. 2009. ISBN 0763639176 (hardcover).
It is a longing and search for love that motivates three girls living in the Ospedale della Pietà, an orphanage renowned for its extraordinary musical program. But for Rosalba, Anetta, and Luisa, the love they seek is not where they expect to find it. Set in the early 1700s in the heart of Venice, this novel deftly weaves the history of Antonio Vivaldi's early musical career into the lives of three young women who excel in voice and instrument. Under the composer's tutelage and care, the orphans find expression, sustenance, and passion. But can the sheltered life of the orphanage prepare them for the unthinkable dangers outside its walls?

In Mozart's Shadow: His Sister's Story
In Mozart's Shadow: His Sister's Story. Carolyn Meyer. Harcourt Children's Books. 2008. ISBN 0152055940 (hardcover).
Nannerl Mozart was a musical prodigy who seemed to have a brilliant future. But once her younger brother, Wolfgang, began composing symphonies at the age of five, her career and talents were utterly eclipsed. Here, at last, is Nannerl's heart-wrenching tale. It's the story of her undying passion for music; her relationship with her "miracle boy" brother; and her life as the "other Mozart," the one forgotten by history.

Ophelia's Fan
Ophelia's Fan. Christine Balint. W.W. Norton & Company. 2004. ISBN 0393059251 (hardcover), 0393327663 (paperback).
Irish actress Harriet Smithson, inspiration for Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, is also the muse for this mesmerizing novel. Christine Balint reimagines the bittersweet life of Harriet Smithson, the tragedienne who brought Shakespeare to the French. Born in County Clare, Ireland, in 1800, Harriet is left in the care of the elderly priest Father Barrett, and is brought up on Lamb's Shakespeare, lime-sherbet sweets, and prayer. A child of traveling players, her ultimate inheritance is Covent Garden, London, the green room, and the theater's rough magic. With the arrival of Charles Kemble's English Theatre troupe in Paris in 1827, the Odéon Theatre is awash with the drama and music of Shakespeare. Harriet is Ophelia. The French Romantics swoon, traffic stops, and the high-society women plait straw in their hair in honor of her mad Ophelia. The fiery composer Hector Berlioz falls in love. In Ophelia's Fan, Balint re-creates the texture and breadth of the nineteenth century and brings alive Harriet Smithson – the actress and the woman, her roles and her loves.

An Equal Music
An Equal Music. Vikram Seth. Vintage Books. 2000. ISBN 037570924X (paperback).
The author of the international bestseller A Suitable Boy returns with a powerful and deeply romantic tale of two gifted musicians. Michael Holme is a violinist, a member of the successful Maggiore Quartet. He has long been haunted, though, by memories of the pianist he loved and left ten years earlier, Julia McNicholl. Now Julia, married and the mother of a small child, unexpectedly reenters his life and the romance flares up once more. Against the magical backdrop of Venice and Vienna, the two lovers confront the truth about themselves and their love, about the music that both unites and divides them, and about a devastating secret that Julia must finally reveal. With poetic, evocative writing and a brilliant portrait of the international music scene, An Equal Music confirms Vikram Seth as one of the world's finest and most enticing writers.

Loving Mozart
Loving Mozart. Mary Montanno. Cantus Verus Press. 1995. ISBN 096425770X (paperback).
Loving Mozart is an engrossing psychological mystery novel weaving Mozart's 18th-century life with lives in the 20th Century. It may be a while before hypnotic regression achieves mainstream acceptance, but Montano's own work in that area and the resultant Loving Mozart will certainly assist in its doing so. Loving Mozart adds an important dimension to the musical genius we know as Mozart and his devoted friend Franz Süssmayr. The author blends five years of psychic and conventional research into a mystical novel that intertwines moments in the lives of Mozart and Süssmayr with their 20th century incarnations – American pianist William Kapell (1922-1953) and the author. Vignettes, encounters, and dialogue experienced in hypnotic regression vivid dreams, and meditation trace an extraordinary testament to Love's transcendence over time and space.

The Autobiography of Maria Callas
The Autobiography of Maria Callas, a Novel. Alma H. Bond. Birch Brook Press. 1998. ISBN 0913559490 (hardcover), 0913559482 (paperback).
"The Autobiography of Maria Callas" is written in the first person, as if Callas herself were speaking. According to Kathryn Lance in the Arizona Daily Star, "Bond has truly seen to the heart of the form of an autobiography that reads as if authentically written by her subject." Ed Ditterline in a syndicated column headed "Bond With Callas in a Brilliant New Masterpiece" writes, "For four years Dr. Bond has lived, breathed, studied, analyzed and absorbed the music an the life of Maria Callas. I believe that her resulting work may well give more reality to her life than the 40 or so byzantine biographies that have been written about the great singer and actress.Buy a first edition.and wait for the Wagnerian scream which will soon be emitting from the emotionally deaf opera world." .

Voices in the Dark
Voices in the Dark. Lindsay Townsend. Magna Large Print (UK). 1999. ISBN 0750513721 (hardcover).
Mystery thriller set in the world of Italian opera.

The Gold Bug Variations. Richard Powers. Harper Perennial. 1992. ISBN 0060975008 (paperback).
A national bestseller, voted by Time as the #1 novel of 1991, selected as one of the "Best Books of 1991" by Publishers Weekly, and nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award--a magnificent story that probes the meaning of love, science, music, and art.

Swann's Way
Swann's Way: In Search of Lost Time, Volume 1. Marcel Proust. Penguin Classics. 2004. ISBN 0142437964 (paperback).
Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time is one of the most entertaining reading experiences in any language and arguably the finest novel of the twentieth century. But since its original prewar translation there has been no completely new version in English. Now, Penguin Classics brings Proust's masterpiece to new audiences throughout the world, beginning with Lydia Davis' internationally-acclaimed translation of the first volume, Swann's Way.

Gambara. Honoré de Balzac. Hard Press. 2006. ISBN 1406951145 (paperback).
Excerpt: "It was sitting by the fire, in a mysterious and magnificent retreat – now a thing of the past but surviving in our memory – whence our eyes commanded a view of Paris from the heights of Belleville to those of Belleville, from Montmartre to the triumphal Arc de l'Etoile, that one morning, refreshed by tea, amid the myriad suggestions that shoot up and die like rockets from your sparkling flow of talk, lavish of ideas, you tossed to my pen a figure worthy of Hoffmann – that casket of unrecognized gems, that pilgrim seated at the gate of Paradise with ears to hear the songs of the angels but no longer a tongue to repeat them, playing on the ivory keys with fingers crippled by the stress of divine inspiration, believing that he is expressing celestial music to his bewildered listeners."

The Seven Symphonies - A Finnish Murder Mystery
The Seven Symphonies - A Finnish Murder Mystery. Simon Boswell. 2005. ISBN 1591136520 (paperback).
A crime thriller set in Helsinki with intriguing links to the music of Jean Sibelius. The novel"s layout and structure are unusual, not being divided into "chapters" as such, but into "symphonies" & "movements" – all of which match the sequence of the seven Sibelius symphonies with appropriate keys (E minor, D major, etc) and tempo markings (Andante, ma non troppo; Allegro energico; etc). The novel employs a daring component of fact within the mainstream crime thriller story line. In each "symphony-chapter", there is one murder, and one "lecture" (a few pages long) about Sibelius and the correspondingly numbered symphony. The lectures are given at Helsinki's Sibelius Music Academy by the Welsh musicologist father of the central character: Detective Inspector Miranda Lewis (who is Finnish born, in spite of her name). A key concept throughout the novel and especially towards the end, where we are allowed into the mind of the killer, is the dangerous, potentially corrupting power of the male sex-drive. (And, to some extent, the differences between the male and female sex-drives). The novel also explores the moral questions of guilt & accountability. Read the Classical Net Review of this book.

Doctor Faustus
Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn as Told by a Friend. Thomas Mann, John E. Woods (Translator). Knopf (hardcover); Vintage (paperback). 1999. ISBN 0375400540 (hardcover), 0375701168 (paperback).
Thomas Mann's last great novel, first published in 1947 and now newly rendered into English by acclaimed translator John E. Woods, is a modern reworking of the Faust legend, in which Germany sells its soul to the Devil. Mann's protagonist, the composer Adrian Leverkühn, is the flower of German culture, a brilliant, isolated, overreaching figure, his radical new music a breakneck game played by art at the very edge of impossibility. In return for twenty-four years of unparalleled musical accomplishment, he bargains away his soul – and the ability to love his fellow man. Leverkühn's life story is a brilliant allegory of the rise of the Third Reich, of Germany's renunciation of its own humanity and its embrace of ambition and nihilism. It is also Mann's most profound meditation on the German genius – both national and individual – and the terrible responsibilities of the truly great artist.

The Memory of Whiteness
The Memory of Whiteness. Kim Stanley Robinson. Orb Books. 1996. ISBN 031293467X (hardcover), 0312861435 (paperback).
In 3229 A.D., human civilization is scattered among the planets, moons, and asteroids of the solar system. Billions of lives depend on the technology derived from the breakthroughs of the greatest physicist of the age, Arthur Holywelkin. But in the last years of his life, Holywelkin devoted himself to building a strange, beautiful, and complex musical instrument that he called The Orchestra. Johannes Wright has earned the honor of becoming the Ninth Master of Holywelkin's Orchestra. Follow him on his Grand Tour of the Solar System, as he journeys down the gravity well toward the sun, impelled by a destiny he can scarcely understand, and is pursued by mysterious foes who will tell him anything except the reason for their enmity.

The Soloist. Mark Salzman. Vintage Books / Random House. 1994. ISBN 0679759263 (hardcover).
A vivid and imaginative portrait of the pursuit of music and of the challenging relationship between teacher and student.

Jean Christophe. Romain Rolland. BiblioLife. 2008. ISBN 0554319209 (hardcover), 1426426933 (paperback).
Regarded by critics as the first great work of fiction produced in the twentieth century, a portrait of a brilliant German musician during the throes of World War I is the masterpiece of a Nobel Prize-winning author.

Hidden Harmonies: The Secret Life of Antonio Vivaldi
Hidden Harmonies: The Secret Life of Antonio Vivaldi. André Romijn. Roman House Publishers. 2007. ISBN 0955410010 (hardcover).
Everyone knows the name Vivaldi. His music is regularly heard in restaurants, shopping centres and on TV advertisements. But did you know that Vivaldi, born and brought up in Venice, was trained as a priest? That he produced literally hundreds of works of music, from concertos to oratorios? That he began his career as a violin teacher in one of the orphanages of La Serenissima? Did you know that he not only wrote many operas but for years also acted as impresario at performances of these and other works? What is the truth behind the ongoing rumours concerning an affair with the young singer Anna Girò? Was this why she was chosen to play the role of leading lady in his operas? And who was Paolina, Anna's supposed half-sister? Is it true that Vivaldi is buried in a pauper's grave in Vienna? Hidden Harmonies takes us back to the turmoil of the eighteenth century, cruising along canals past Baroque palaces and bustling theatres. We experience the carnival in Venice and travel to Florence, Mantua, Prague and Vienna. You are bound to find yourself enthralled by this artistic world of composers, castrati and prima donnas, kings, emperors and even the pope of Rome himself. The novel is based upon historical facts and offers accessible insight into the life of a man whose constant struggle was a balancing act between victory and failure. How come his music is so famous today whilst just fifty years ago the name of Vivaldi was practically unknown?

White Swan, Black Swan
White Swan, Black Swan. Adrienne Sharp. Ballantine Books. 2002. ISBN 0375504206 (hardcover), 034543868X (paperback).
The world's most famous choreographer becomes infatuated with a talented young dancer who proves both siren and muse … A rising star plunges into an affair with a principal but finds that the ecstasy on the stage cannot be matched in the bedroom … A dying legend reflects on the fading beauty of a life in motion, lost to everything but memory. In this beguiling collection, Adrienne Sharp captures the essence and passion of ballet and its fleeting world and translates them into unforgettable stories. White Swan, Black Swan heralds the arrival of a unerringly graceful new voice in American fiction.

A Company of Swans
A Company of Swans. Eva Ibbotson. Speak Publishers (Penguin). 2007. ISBN 0142409405 (hardcover), 0142409405 (paperback).
For nineteen-year-old Harriet Morton, life in 1912 Cambridge is as dry and dull as a biscuit. Her stuffy father and her opressive aunt Louisa allow her only one outlet: ballet. When a Russian ballet master comes to class searching for dancers to fill the corps of his ballet company before their South American tour, Harriet's world changes. Defying her father's wishes and narrowly escaping the clutches of the man who wishes to marry her, Harriet sneaks off to join the ballet on their journey to the Amazon. There, in the wild, lush jungle, they perform Swan Lake in grand opera houses for the wealthy and culture-deprived rubber barons, and Harriet meets Rom Verney, the handsome and mysterious British exile who owns the most ornate opera house. Utterly enchanted by both the exotic surroundings and by Rom's affections, Harriet is swept away by her new life, completely unaware that her father and would-be finacé have begun to track her down….

Living Underground
Living Underground. Ruth E. Walker. Seraphim Editions. Seraphim Editions. ISBN 192707908X (paperback).
Sheila Martin’s dismal childhood is irrevocably transformed when Sigmund Maier, the family’s enigmatic German tenant, introduces her to opera, music and much more. When he reappears in her ordered and successful adult life, Sigmund asks for her help with an immigration issue. Will she now discover the truth of why he vanished years ago?