Body and Soul, by Frank Conroy In the dim light of a basement apartment, six-year-old Claude Rawlings sits at an old white piano, picking out the sounds he has heard on the radio and shutting out the reality of his lonely world. The setting is 1940s New York, a city that is “long gone, replaced by another city of the same name.” Against a backdrop that pulses with sound and rhythm, “Body & Soul” brilliantly evokes the life of a child prodigy whose musical genius pulls him out of squalor and into the drawing rooms of the rich and a gilt-edged marriage.
The Passion of Tasha Darsky, by Yael Love Goldstein The Passion of Tasha Darsky draws readers into the glamorous and competitive world of classical music, capturing its harsh demands and its magical power to move performers and audiences alike. With rare mastery, Yael Goldstein Love offers a sweeping tale of female ambition, unflinchingly rendered in all its danger, confusion, and passion.
Orpheo, by Richard Powers (also molecular biology) Retired composer Peter Els has an unusual hobby, do-it-yourself genetic engineering. Is his work dangerous? We’re not sure, but when hazmat-suited government agents descend on his home, he flees, becoming perhaps the world’s least likely suspected terrorist, the “biohacker Bach.” On his prolonged cross-country journey, we learn Els’ life story in flashback: how he fell in love with music and with a woman, went to school at the height of the avant garde, and began a lifelong struggle between the urge to invent and the need to please.
In the Time of Our Singing, by Richard Powers On Easter day, 1939, at Marian Anderson’s epochal concert on the Washington Mall, David Strom, a German Jewish emigre scientist, meets Delia Daley, a young Philadelphia Negro studying to be a singer. Their mutual love of music draws them together, and—against all odds and better judgment—they marry. They vow to raise their children beyond time, beyond identity, steeped in song. But their three children must survive America’s brutal here and now.