Symphony

Jude Morgan, Author
Jude Morgan, Author . St. Martin's $24.95 (374p) ISBN 978-0-312-36951-4
Paperback - 374 pages - 978-0-312-38478-4
Hardcover - 374 pages - 978-0-7553-2771-3
Hardcover - 374 pages - 978-0-7553-2772-0
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The real-life marriage of Irish actress Harriet Smithson (1800–1854) to composer Hector Berlioz (1803–1869) is the ostensible subject of Morgan's latest (following Indiscretion ), but the two don't meet until two thirds of the way into this thickly embellished historical romance. After initial reluctance, the young Harriet, her passion for theatre inflamed by Shakespeare, joins her family's traveling theater company. As drink dissipates her father, weight softens her mother and minimal talent limits her brother Joseph, Harriet takes charge of the family business and appears with theatrical stars of the time. But it's her magnificent interpretation of Ophelia in Paris that brings her a public, including Hector, the son of a successful doctor and a pious mother. Young Hector's path to a musical education is told in parallel to Harriet's youth. After her Ophelia, Harriet turns away Hector's ardent pursuit, but as her theater begins to fail and his musical star begins to rise, she attends a performance of his Symphonie Fantastique, inspired by her. Morgan's modernist style, with frequent shifts in tense and POV, won't be for everyone, but it lets Morgan nicely capture the multiple levels of consciousness a performer juggles on stage (“the three minds”) and gives the novel real texture. (Dec.)

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