"A girl was never ruined by books," my mother used to say. I've spent most of my life trying to prove that wrong.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

River Music by Mary Soderstrom

River Music

by Mary Soderstrom

Giveaway ends June 27, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Out of Character: Maureen Forrester's Autobiography

The life of a great artist is never easy, particularly when he or she must fight for training.  The Canadian contralto Maureen Forrester is a brilliant example, and she also had the wit to write an engaging autobiography about how she succeeded.

Out of Character was published in 1986, 
when she was at the height of her career.  Funny, frank and full of insights into what it takes to forge a musical career, the book details her struggles at the beginning, her marriage to violinist Eugene Kash, the birth of her five children and her distingished international presence.  She lived another 24 years, dying in 2010 of dementia-related problems. 

When I first read this book well before she died, I was impressed by how determined she was to sing, and how she tried to balance her career with her personal life.  Ten years ago when I started thinking about writing a book with a concert pianist as the principle character, I returned to it.  Forrester's autobiography gives much  insight into what it's like to build a world-class career--and how hard it is for a woman to balance passion for an art and love in all its forms.

If my novel River Music is any good, I owe a lot to Forrester's generous sharing of her life in this most entertaining and insightful autobiography.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

River Music Countdown Begins

All right, it looks like everything's a go.

Monday I signed off on the copy for the cover of River Music, and Alessandra Ferrari, Cormorant's publicity director, just wrote that copies of the book will be shipped to arrive in Montreal May 13.

That will be perfect for the Words and Music even the Atwater Library is planning for Thursday, May 14.  That's when I'll present the book at 12:30 p.m., and pianist Jana Stuart will play some Debussy that is very important in the novel. 

Then we'll have an official launch party at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 27 at the Librairie Drawn and Quarterly, 211 Bernard West, in the Mile End district of Montreal. 

And to whet your appetite, here's an excerpt from the publicity bumph:

"Set against a backdrop of war, economic changes, and social upheavals, River Music explores the sacrifices that women make to fulfill their destiny, the wildcards of sex and passion, and the complicated relationships between mothers and their children.   

After an adolescence playing in churches and hotel lobbies, Gloria Murray  prepares to study in post-World War II France, but tpassion intrudes and, halfway through her year abroad, she finds herself forced into a hard choice that she shares with no one. Back in Canada, her career blossoms, she marries and has two children, and her secret seems best forgotten — until, thirty years later, her past and her career collide."

Friday, April 24, 2015

The End of Empires: Thoughts on the Armenian Genocide

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Armenians by Turks, as the Ottoman Empire entered its death throes.  There are a number of articles and programs about the event, but here are a handful of books that give a wider
context to what happened.

1. The Ottoman Empire began in the heyday of the Mongols: its dates are usually given as 1299-1923.  To understand who the Mongols are, read Jack Weatherford's excellent Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World.  The great Khan was a Mongol chieftain who believed that he and his people were chosen by heaven--The Great Blue Sky--to conquer the world. By the end of his lifetime he and his four sons held sway over the greatest empire the world knew until the Britania ruled the waves 400 years later. They and their mounted followers went as far as the grasslands of Eurasia extended. Only the forests of Europe and the heat and humidity of southern India and Southeast Asia--both unwelcoming to mounted warriors--limited their advance.

Cruel in the extreme to those who refused to surrender, they searched talent wherever they went, and, Weatherford writes, produced a body of law that was relatively egalitarian and allowed considerable religious freedom.

2. Ali and Nino  by Kurban Said. The Romeo and Juliet lovers of this novel set in Azerbaijan are Georgian and Muslim, but the uneasy relation between Armenians and their neighbors is in the background.

3.  The Goodtime Girl by Tess Fragoulis. The Armenians were not the only victims of Turkish agression in the early 20th century: the Greeks of Anatolia also were chased and kill.  In this novel, the main character is a young woman who was her father's darling in the early 1920s in Smyrna.   When Greeks were driven from the city by Turks in 1922, she escaped to Pireaus and Athens where she ended up singing other people's songs of distress and love.

The worst of the story happens off stage.  Kivelli has wiped part of it from her mind.  It resurfaces in her dreams and in an abbreviated version told about half way through the book.  But we know always that a number of people were beastly to a number of others for reasons which in no way justify what happened.

Kivelli is a survivor, and sings her sorrows so movingly that she is able to escape. That she sings the songs of other people is also poignant, because Fragoulis makes it clear that while many people may have stories to tell, not all of them have the voice to tell them.