Daughters of Song

Paula Huston, Author
Paula Huston, Author Random House (NY) $23 (363p) ISBN 978-0-679-41969-3
Hardcover - 978-0-517-19371-6
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With an open, breezy style reminiscent of Kate Chopin's, this first novel, set in Baltimore, tells the story of a young woman who knows she must develop strong wings in order to fly against the winds of tradition, male oppression and, most challengingly, her own fears. The thin, shy, piano-playing protagonist, Sylvia, has hands of fire at the keyboard but struggles to put some courage in her heart. Sylvia experiences a near-compulsion that draws her to the piano again and again. What, she needs to know, drives this obsession? Is it the gift of artistic passion? Is it the child prodigy's fear of ending in failure? Is is the pressure she feels from the ``fathers'' she finds in Beethoven, in her ``huffing and snorting'' piano instructor and in her own biological father? Moon Ja Koh, a famous Korean-American pianist, symbolizes one way Sylvia's life can turn out. Moon Ja has pursued her career with an unrelenting, implacable will, but when she begins to detect the Brahmsian strains of her own mortality, she reflects on her life and is flattened by what she discovers. The spinsterish piano teacher, Katerina Haupt, represents another path that Sylvia can follow. Huston, who writes in the present tense, quotes Sidney Lanier: ``Music is love in search of a word''; by the time Sylvia, gives the important recital for which she spends most of the novel preparing, she has come closer to divining her own definitions of both music and love. (July)
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