cover image The Choir

The Choir

Joanna Trollope. Random House (NY), $22 (261pp) ISBN 978-0-679-44454-1

As in the music that pervades the plot of Trollope's (The Rector's Wife) absorbing novel, contrapuntal technique results in a brilliant composition. Like her ancestor Anthony, Trollope focuses on an English cathedral town and its dissonant voices. Hugh Cavendish is dean of Aldminster Cathedral. The father of mutinous, unorthodox children, he is a bitterly disappointed man who craves administrative and spiritual authority. The prized boy's choir, however, is under the authority of King's School headmaster Alexander Troy and music master Leo Beckford. When the cathedral needs a quarter-million pounds worth of roof repairs, all matters of God, pedagogy, politics and music become matters of funds. Cavendish prefers to pay off the roof costs by sacrificing the expensive-to-maintain choir. Meanwhile, socialist/atheist city councilman Frank Ashworth wants the town to buy the headmaster's house out from under him to use as a community facility. Into the fray fall Sally Ashworth, married to Frank's long-absent son and in love with Leo; Sally's young son, Henry, the choir star; Alexander's untethered wife, Felicity; and Hugh's daughter Ianthe, an up-and-comer in the music business, who helps give her father what he deserves. Sacred music, the perfect treble of pre-pubescent boys and delicious deadpan understatement create a uniquely rich soundtrack on the pages of this beautifully crafted tale, which was first published in Britain in 1978. Author tour. (Sept.)