The story of a young man whose existence is transformed by the discovery of his musical talent. Poor, lonely and supported by an eccentric mother, he initially faces the task of growing up on the margins of life. Then, on an out-of-tune piano, his gift is revealed, but it is not without price.The story of a young man whose existence is transformed by the discovery of his musical talent. Poor, lonely and supported by an eccentric mother, he initially faces the task of growing up on the margins of life. Then, on an out-of-tune piano, his gift is revealed, but it is not without price.Read Less
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Publishers Weekly, 1993-06-21 When the author of Stop-Time and Midair produces a new work, it is an event to celebrate. And although Conroy's bildungsroman of a boy finding his identity in his musical genius has some flaws, it is by and large an engrossing novel, written in a supple and elegant prose and displaying remarkable insight into the mind of a prodigy. Conroy's protagonist is Claude Rawlings, who grows up in the 1940s in the shadow of New York's Third Avenue El. Claude's education in some ways is similar to Billy Bathgate's: neglected by his emotionally unstable, alcoholic, cab-driver mother, he shines shoes, lifts coins from sewers and learns to steal. He is introduced to another world when Aaron Weisfeld, a music store owner and WW II refugee, recognizes his musical gifts and transports him to the Park Avenue apartment of a maestro whose Bechstein piano Claude uses and eventually inherits. Even more in the Dickensian mode, Claude falls in love with a cold, arrogant young woman from a patrician New York family, a character who is eerily similar to Estella in Great Expectations . Conroy's depiction of a young boy's discovery of music, the awakening of his sensibility and the flowering of his genius is brilliant. Lucid explanations of musical theory ranging from basic harmonics to the 12-tone scale, from Bach to Charlie Parker to Schoenberg, provide a continuum of insights and discoveries for Claude and for the reader. The first half of the book sweeps Claude along a path strewn with almost miraculous lucky breaks: he has inspired teachers and generous and appreciative patrons; his concerts are unalloyed triumphs--and only the cynical will wish for a disaster to increase the tension. (Readers of Stop Time will also recognize in Claude's childhood an alternative version of Conroy's miserable youth.) The second half is less successful. Claude's immersion in music, an obsession that makes him fascinating as a youth, renders him hollow as a man, and while Conroy obviously intends to demonstrate that Claude's emotional life is sterile in several ways, as a protagonist for a time he becomes a muted and shadowy figure. Claude's unquestioning relationship with the kindly Weisfeld, his first and abiding teacher, is less credible once he matures. The revelation of Claude's patrimony is poignantly rendered, however, and provides another look at the nature of creativity. And the book as a whole is harmoniously orchestrated and beautifully observed. 125,000 first printing; film rights to Spring Creek Productions; major ad/promo; author tour. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly, 1994-10-03 Conroy's debut novel, of a young and neglected musical prodigy who is taken in by a music-store owner, was named one of PW's best books of 1993. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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