The Gustav Sonata

Audio disc edition released 28/10/2016

by Rose Tremain

Modern and Contemporary Fiction Family Drama eBooks of the Month Historical fiction Literary Fiction

LoveReading Expert Review of The Gustav Sonata

Shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2017.

Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2016.

Profoundly moving tale of love and devotion, told in a steady, lucid style that reverberates with the latent undercurrent of suppressed, unfulfilled longings.

Switzerland, 1947, and five-year-old Gustav lives a lonely existence until he befriends Anton Zwiebel, a teary Jewish boy who joins his kindergarten. Gustav feels quite sorry for Anton, whose surname his means “onion”, and whose prodigious talent as a pianist is hampered by an incapacitating fear of public performance.

Gustav's defining first visit to the wealthy Zwiebel household is evoked with crystalline intensity. It’s a new world of music, and ice-skating and trips away that couldn’t be more different from the austerity of his own home life. Anton’s mother is spirited, while Gustav’s beloved Mutti is curt and distant, and has brought him up to “master himself”, to be "like Switzerland" (his father, a former Assistant Police Chief, died before Gustav was old enough to remember him). The boys cement their bond during a two-week holiday, when they play doctor and nurse in an abandoned sanatorium, deciding which of their imaginary patients live or die, and enacting the kiss of life.

When we meet Gustav in middle age, he's still playing at mastering himself, and overlooked by bitter Anton, while his own heart remains steadfast and true, though it’s still restrained and guarded. Meanwhile, the story of Gustav’s parents set some ten years earlier is hauntingly illuminating; there’s the misfortune that struck their first year of marriage, then the tragedy of how his father's efforts to save Jewish lives led to his own downfall. The perfect conclusion comes not as a crashing crescendo, but as a heartfelt swelling, as satisfying as releasing a gasp after a long-held breath. Truly, this poignant novel casts a long-lingering spell. ~ Joanne Owen

The Walter Scott Prize Judges said:
‘Set at first in Switzerland as the Second World War swirls around its borders, this novel is simply magnificent, by turns cold and bleak, life-affirming and always very beautifully written. The images in The Gustav Sonata filled my eye, its story captured my heart and it made me marvel at Rose Tremain's remarkable skills.’

Joanne Owen

The Gustav Sonata Synopsis

The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

About This Edition

ISBN: 9781489362209
Publication date: 28th October 2016
Author: Rose Tremain
Publisher: Bolinda/Audible Audio an imprint of Bolinda Publishing
Format: Audio disc
Primary Genre Modern and Contemporary Fiction
Other Genres:
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Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9781784700201
Publication date: 26/01/2017
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781489362209
Publication date: 28/10/2016
Format: Audio disc

ISBN: 9781784740030
Publication date: 19/05/2016
Format: Hardback

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