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Janice Galloway's new novel is based on the life of Clara Schumann: celebrated nineteenth-century concert pianist and composer, editor and teacher, friend of Brahms - who was also the wife of Robert Schumann, the mother of his eight children, and the woman who cared for him through a series of crippling mental illnesses. Clara is a lyrical and vibrant account of two remarkable and highly dramatic musical careers, but primarily it is a novel about timeless, common things: about the inescapable influences of childhood, about creativity and marital life, about communication and silence, about how art is made and how art, in turn, may erode or save the life that nourishes it.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099750512
ISBN-10: 0099750511
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 26mm)
Pages: 432
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 6-Mar-2003
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


UK Kirkus Review » This beautifully written novel breaks new ground for award-winner Janice Galloway. Meticulously and thoroughly researched, it recreates the life of the immensely gifted concert pianist Clara Wieck, who at 19 married the multi-talented but ill-starred Robert Schumann, pianist, composer and music critic. In just 16 years of marriage, Clara bore Schumann eight children, tirelessly encouraged him in his work, and supported him through the terrors of protracted episodes of mental illness, an affliction which culminated in his death at the age of only 46. In telling Clara's story, Galloway gives the reader the anatomy of a unique marriage and working partnership: Clara and Robert made music together and wrote a tender marriage diary. But this novel also presents the couple as individuals in their time: 19th-century Germany, which their friends Liszt, Mendelssohn, Wagner and Brahms also inhabited. Also shown are the petty rivalries, the difficult and tedious travel, the discipline and sheer hard work of the professional musician's world. The novel can also be read as a feminist interpretation of a dedicated life. Clara was raised by a wilful and tyrannical father who vested all his hopes in her and who was, predictably, violently opposed to her marriage. In a sense she was passed from one chauvinist to another, for Schumann found it difficult to cope with his wife's fame, and when self-absorbedly ill was often very cruel to her. In Galloway's version both men were skilled in the arts of emotional blackmail, and the medical experts often blamed Clara for not knowing her domestic place, despite the fact that it was her talent and organizational skill that kept the family going. This deeply moving book shows a very human Clara who nevertheless is unwavering in her devotion to her husband and family: while admiring her indomitable strength, prepare to shed tears of pity for her plight. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » Scottish novelist and storywriter Galloway (Where You Find It, 2002, etc.) brings us the life and work of Clara Schumann in an impassioned fictional biography. Young Clara Wieck of Leipzig is her egotistical father's prize piano pupil: by the time she's seven, he is molding her into the severely disciplined performer she'll be for the rest of her life. Her mother, a singer, is sent away and superfluously divorced as the father-daughter duo systematically conquers Europe with Clara's bafflingly precocious performances of Schubert and Beethoven. When Herr Wieck takes on the patronage of the brilliant, dreamy pianist and composer Robert Schumann, ten years Clara's senior, there's a shift in the dynamics of power, and the pubescent girl and Romantic roue fall in love, eventually marrying against her father's menacing wishes. Midway in the story, Galloway, who has immersed herself in the diaries and letters of these characters to the point of surfeit (she sparks her decorative narrative with breathy exclamations and stream-of-consciousness questions), shifts into overdrive, discovering in Robert's fits of ardor and despair a key to the tale that Clara's own sober, diffident personality can't provide. Brittle, compulsive, engorged on the idea of art for art's sake-Dear God! Wasn't Robert an artist, a Great Man?-Robert gradually loses his grip on reality, making it essential that Clara continue her dogged performances from Russia to England in order to keep their bloated household of seven children running. Liszt, Mendelssohn, Chopin, even Wagner waltz through the pages like Halloween trick-or-treaters, and the reader had better have at least a passing knowledge of musical history and composition. Do we ever learn whether Clara possesses true passion or just plays like a dutiful machine? In the end, Clara's quest to be the Good Wife comes to naught as Robert is institutionalized, giving a sorrowful, nearly hollow note to Galloway's wildly imagined tale of soured genius. Still, the sound of Great Personalities clashing makes a rollicking good read. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Janice Galloway

Janice Galloway's first novel, The Trick is to Keep Breathing, now widely regarded as a Scottish contemporary classic, was published in 1990 and won the MIND/Allan Lane Book of the Year. Her second novel, Foreign Parts, won the American Academy of Arts and Letters EM Forster Award while her third, Clara, about the tempestuous life of nineteenth-century pianist Clara Wieck Schumann, won the Saltire Award in 2002. Collaborative texts include an opera with Sally Beamish and three cross-discipline works with Anne Bevan, the Orcadian sculptor. Her 'anti-memoir', This is not about me, was published by Granta in September 2008 to universal critical acclaim. She lives in Lanarkshire

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