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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Spanish Bow by Andromeda Romano-Lax

The Spanish Bow by Andromeda Romano-Lax. Orlando, Florida: Harcourt, Inc., 2007. ISBN: 978-0-15-101542-9

This novel is loosely, VERY loosely based on the life of Pablo Casals, according to the author's note, printed at the back of the book. In fact, her original thought was to write a nonfiction book about Casals. But she ended up writing this evocative novel instead. Why? You'll have to read her note.

One paragraph in the note definitely spoke to me. So much so, that I feel the need to quote it entire (oops, this is NOT the entire paragraph, but it's the part that counts):

I love collages. (Is it any wonder I found room in this book for Picasso?) I like the look of bits of newspaper and cloth stuck with paint, and violins shaped from torn paper, and familiar items rendered unfamiliar. This book is such a collage.

So why did I have to quote that passage? Because I too, love collages. In fact, I make collages myself. Not very good ones, I'll admit, but it's a lot of fun, whenever I can find the time, which isn't nearly as often as I'd like.

But back to the book. It's about a young boy growing up in Spain who almost accidentally receives an extraordinary gift from his deceased father: a bow. A bow too large for the violin, but perfect for the cello. And so the boy becomes a musician. He later forms an alliance, a partnership of sorts, with a somewhat older pianist, who is only very superficially modeled after the Spanish composer and pianist Isaac Albéniz.

Eventually they add a third member to their performing ensemble, a young Jewish woman, with whom they both more or less fall in love. Events march on, and eventually we inevitably find ourselves in the midst of the Spanish civil war, and all of the madness that it entailed. In one of the more remarkable passages, this now celebrated trio finds itself in the unenviable situation of providing a command performance for a (now famous) meeting between Hitler and Franco.

Unfortunately, things take a tragic turn, as you might expect, and the performance never happens. Neither of them gets the girl, and our cellist ends up exiled in Cuba, from whence he tells his remarkable story.

It's hard to say exactly what this book is about. It's about musicians, more than it's about music. But it's really about friendship and betrayal, love and desire, and being caught up in the sweep of historical events over which one has little or no control. Reading the book is a moving experience, and one that won't soon be forgotten. Definitely recommended, especially for those who enjoy novels with a musical subtext, as I do.


  • I just found this blog, I see you read Piers Anthony, which is so far the only author i've found I recognise. I think I will enjoy exploring the blog and some of the authors you discuss. :)

    By Blogger Hagelrat, at 11:58 AM  

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