Bethany, 2006 (2006)
Reviewed by Lisa Respers France
olfgang Amadeus Mozart is legendary for his music, but little is known of his equally talented sister Nannerl. Author Nancy Moser rectifies this fact with this historical novel based on her exhaustive research and the countless letters left behind by the Mozart family. Driven by their father Leopold, the young Mozart siblings are child prodigies who travel 18th century Europe entertaining royalty and their subjects. While Nannerl is the older sister, her younger brother has the benefit of being male and the apple of their parents' eye. His role as boy musical genius means attention is lavished on him, and all the family's ambition and hopes rest on the shoulders of a spoiled little boy who's as incorrigible as he is gifted.
annerl, meanwhile, is as passionate about music as her brother is and longs to throw off the limitations of her sex and perform. She also craves the admiration of her father, who seems to have invested all the love he has in his male heir. The novel is both deeply moving and disturbing as the reader witnesses Nannerl's constant struggle to emerge from her brother's shadow. Moser inhabits her protagonist completely and does an exemplary job of giving voice to Nannerl's desires and frustrations. Along the way, Nannerl's faith is tested and grows as she comes to terms with what appears to be the will for her life.
ans of classical music will enjoy this intimate look into the world of the Mozarts. Modern day readers who have come to expect female characters to deftly overcome sexism and classism for that eternal happy ending may be disappointed with how Nannerl reconciles her fate and ultimately comes to terms with her limitations. But given the era in which the novel is set, the story is rationale and reasonable while still being incredibly well written and entertaining. This is one book which strikes the right note.
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