Published: February 25, 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction
In late-eighteenth-century London, a young girl takes her first singing lessons with a mysterious castrato in exile. Her life is forever changed. Having learned everything he can teach her, Anna leaves behind all the security and familiarity of home and journeys to Naples and Venice to struggle and triumph in Italy’s greatest opera houses. Only sixteen, she finds herself in an intoxicating world of theaters, nobility, and vice, overwhelmed by her newfound freedom and fame. Her first bitter experience of love and heartbreak inevitably follow.
Within a few years, Anna is invited to sing in Vienna, the City of Music, by the emperor himself. There, in a teasing game of theft and play, Anna first meets Mozart, a young virtuoso pianist and striving, prodigiously talented composer. They are matched in intellect and talent, and an immediate and undeniable charge forms between the two, despite both being married to others.
As her star rises in Vienna and her personal life deteriorates, Anna experiences an ultimate crisis. During this trying time, her only light is Mozart: his energy, his determination in her, and his art. She, in turn, becomes his hope and inspiration, and his joy, as he writes for her some of his most exquisite and enduring arias—music that will live on as his masterworks.
I should have enjoyed this book more than I did. It seems to have so much going for it: a love story set in a rich historical period, colorful personalities, music. To be fair, these are things that would commend this book. However, it all just didn't come together for me.
The best way I can describe my experience reading this book is that there seemed to be a large pane of plexiglass between me and the action. I never felt that I got to know any of the characters, including the main character of Anna. She, like the rest of the characters, just didn't seem real to me. I have visited Vienna and was looking forward to Shotwell bringing it to life for me, but I never felt that. This could have taken place in London or Amsterdam or Paris as far as I was concerned.
The idea behind this is a good one--I was a bit surprised to find that Anna Storace was indeed a real person and was the inspiration for Mozart's Susannah in The Marriage of Figaro. I will say that I felt the pacing of the book was a bit off--this was supposed to be a love story between Mozart and Anna but, by the time Mozart ever came on the scene, I had the impression that this was instead a story of Anna and her conquests.
I will take responsibility on my pickiness here. It may be that I just expected too much from this book and another reader may have a different experience. Yet, this still isn't a book that I would recommend to another reader.
I received an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review. I received no other compensation for this post.