Wunderkind

Nikolai Grozni, Author
Nikolai Grozni. Free Press, $24 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4516-1691-0
Reviewed on: 06/06/2011
Release date: 09/01/2011
Paperback - 289 pages - 978-1-4516-1694-1
Ebook - 304 pages - 978-1-4516-1698-9
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Grozni's fiction debut (after his memoir, Turtle Feet) is a familiarly bleak tale of life at a music school behind the Iron Curtain. Being a student at the Music School for the Gifted in Sofia, Bulgaria, means spending days practicing Prokofiev and digesting Party doctrine under the watchful eyes of animal-nicknamed teachers, from the sympathetic Ladybug who teaches piano to the imperious principal, the Owl. Narrator Konstantin is a skilled 15-year-old pianist with incredible potential, but his fiery temperament is ill-suited to playing the Communist cog. He, along with his friends Irena, a violinist, and Alexander, an opera singer, form the core of a band of rebels who lash out with pranks and stunts as they struggle with their own teenage fears and desires. But Konstantin has a chance to escape, if only he can impress the right people at an upcoming Chopin competition—and survive until then, particularly after a prank that goes too far. Grozni's writing is colorful and strong—his passages describing music and the musical temperament particularly so—but the effect soon becomes one of the same chord being struck over and over, leaving the reader yearning for more subtlety of expression. (Sept.)
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