Go to Homepage   Rose Tremain: Music & Silence

 

Crescent Blues Book ViewsPocket Books (Trade Paperback), ISBN 0743418263
English lutenist Peter Claire arrives at the court of King Christian IV, in 17th century Denmark, expecting to lead a comfortable life as a member of the royal orchestra. Struck by his beauty and his resemblance to an old friend, the king immediately develops a special attachment to Peter, whom he dubs "my angel." Thus inextricably bound to the king, Peter struggles to forge a relationship with Emilia, a young woman similarly bound to the king's adulterous wife, Kirsten Munk. Peter's and Emilia's battle to reach one another through a gauntlet of social and political obstacles forms the heart of British author Rose Tremain's complex historical novel.

Book: Rose tremain, music and silenceThemes of hope and despair, the sacred and the profane, sin and redemption run through the intertwining plot lines, as each character seeks a companion, serenity or a glimpse of the divine. Kirsten details her own flagrant behavior through journal entries, which reveal her yearning to be free of her husband, the king, and pursue her own desires. Kirsten's mother visits Christian's mother and forms an alliance that protects what each of them hold dear. Pursued by an Irish Countess, Peter must choose between his heart's wishes and a secure future. Separated from Peter through unalterable circumstance, Emilia travels perilously close to a disastrous solution. King Christian, a man who weighs the same pieces of silver over and over, so as to "reimpose order upon chaos," desperately searches for a windfall to reestablish Denmark's fallen fortunes. The manifestation of power in all of its forms, economic, political, sexual and even musical, dominates the narrative.

The female characters in Music & Silence live the constricted lives of the second class, regardless of their caste. The devices employed by the women to make their lives tolerable tread the line between inventive and unseemly. Kirsten and Emilia's stepmother, Magdalena, assert themselves through sexual independence. Dowager Queen Sophie, mother of the king, harbors wealth that she cherishes so much she refuses to use it to aid her son and her country. A feminist reading of Tremain's novel would characterize these women as heroines, but Tremain is not so heavy handed. She paints them merely as products of their time, individuals who carry burdens unique to women but neither greater nor less than those borne by men.

Winner of the prestigious Whitbread Award, Music & Silence delights the reader on several levels. The story engages us. Each deeply flawed character represents someone we know. Tremain's language flows throughout the multiple narrative styles employed to describe different characters' experiences. She uses literary allusions, particularly to Shakespeare, to further accentuate the commonality of those experiences. Comments upon the accuracy of Tremain's historical research can be left to more sagacious reviewers. This reader merely enjoyed the tale.

Jodi Forschmiedt

Click here to share your views.