THE SOUND OF BLUE

Holly Payne, Author . Dutton $23.95 (326p) ISBN 978-0-525-94792-9

Payne's second novel (after 2002's well-received The Virgin's Knot ) ruminates on refuge and how solace may be found in music and memory. In 1992, after getting rejected from Harvard Law School, Sara Foster flees to teach English in Hungary. She envisions a glamorous Budapest "where poets and politicians gobbled cakes and cobbled history, mixing ink with icing, calling it sweet," but instead finds herself giving lessons in optimism to Croatian refugees in Csokhid who have fled the "twentieth-century psoriasis" of war. Though used to solitude, Sara feels painfully disconnected; she finds comfort in the music of Milan, a Serbian composer who welcomes her attention ("The sound of blue had permitted perfect strangers to turn toward each other in one measured moment of refuge"). But when Milan returns to his native Dubrovnik to face his demons, Sara follows, to the war-torn city where a young half-Croatian, half-Serbian refugee named Luka searches for his drum, which will "wake the dead." Payne employs flourishes of figurative language and poetic musings on the nature of refuge and memory. But these exquisite (and sometimes overwritten) miniatures come at the expense of the bigger picture; the plot's clarity and momentum suffer, as do character development and the novel's real and dark context. Agent, Pete Miller. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 12/13/2004
Release date: 01/01/2005
Paperback - 326 pages - 978-0-452-28698-6
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