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The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

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Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2016.

Fierce, astringent, profoundly tender, Rose Tremain's beautifully orchestrated novel asks the question, what does it do to a person, or to a country, to pursue an eternal quest for neutrality, and self-mastery, while all life's hopes and passions continually press upon the borders and beat upon the gate.

Costa judges' comment: “A deft, delicate and vivid book in three movements – pitch perfect and humane.”

If you like Rose Tremain you might also like to read books by Salley Vickers, Joanne Harris and William Trevor.


The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

What is the difference between friendship and love? Or between neutrality and commitment? Gustav Perle grows up in a small town in 'neutral' Switzerland, where the horrors of the Second World War seem a distant echo. But Gustav's father has mysteriously died, and his adored mother Emilie is strangely cold and indifferent to him. Gustav's childhood is spent in lonely isolation, his only toy a tin train with painted passengers staring blankly from the carriage windows. As time goes on, an intense friendship with a boy of his own age, Anton Zwiebel, begins to define Gustav's life. Jewish and mercurial, a talented pianist tortured by nerves when he has to play in public, Anton fails to understand how deeply and irrevocably his life and Gustav's are entwined.

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'I love Rose Tremain's writing and a new novel is always something to savour.' The Bookseller

About the Author

Rose Tremain

Rose Tremain's bestselling novels have won many awards, including the Orange Prize (The Road Home), the Whitbread Novel of the Year (Music & Silence), the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Prix Femina Etranger (Sacred Country). Restoration was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 1989 and made into a film in 1995. The sequel, Merivel, was published to rapturous acclaim in 2012, and the Telegraph described the character of Robert Merivel as 'one of the great imaginative creations in English literature of the past fifty years'. Rose Tremain was made a CBE in 2007 and was appointed Chancellor of the University of East Anglia in 2013. She lives in Norfolk and London with the biographer, Richard Holmes.

Author photo © David Kirkham

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Book Info

Publication date

19th May 2016


Rose Tremain

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Chatto & Windus an imprint of Vintage Publishing


256 pages


Literary Fiction
Family Drama
All Shortlists and Winners
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Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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