Pages of a weathered original sonata manuscript - the gift of a Czech immigrant living in Queens - come into the hands of Meta Taverner, a young musicologist whose concert piano career was cut short by an injury. The gift comes with the request that Meta find the manuscript's true owner -a Prague friend the old woman has not heard from since the Second World War forced them apart - and make the three-part Sonata whole again. Leaving New York behind for the land of Dvorak and Kafka, Meta sets out on an unforgettable search to locate the remaining movements of the sonata and uncover a story that has influenced the course of many lives, even as it becomes clear that she isn't the only one seeking the music's secrets.
Bradford Morrow is a novelist, short story writer, essayist, and editor of literary journal Conjunctions. He teaches at Bard College - a private college based in the state of New York. In "The Prague Sonata" he's written an epic, continent spanning book that's as evocative as it is moving - a book that's been years in the making but is absolutely worth your time.
My lack of knowledge regarding the history of the Czech Republic is shamefully limited, and it's not a country I'd ever visited - so had little idea of the events that would form the backdrop of "The Prague Sonata". Morrow not only informs the reader, but brings Prague to life in such vivid fashion that it becomes an important character in the book - as living and breathing as the two women who take most of the plot. As someone with a background that featured music heavily, I loved quite how integral music is to the plot too - and it helps to make this book a sensory experience in terms of time, place and sound. The characters are excellent, and the plot gripping - although slightly meandering at times. My only slight grumble is that it can be hard to initially grasp what time period a chapter is set in, leading to some initial confusion - but once the reader gets to know the characters better it becomes far easier to sense in whose company your spending a chapter. Apparently it took the author over ten years to research and write this - and it really shows, with words carefully chosen and technical terms with what is clearly a high level of expertise. At its heart though, "The Prague Sonata" is a tale about humanity - both the good and the bad, and takes the readers on a journey that's as well written as it is memorable. Here's hoping we don't have to wait a decade for Morrow's next book!