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Book Review: The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

The Gustav Sonata tells the story of a young boy who is rejected by his mother, but who finds love elsewhere.

Gustav is growing up in Switzerland, which prides itself on its partiality during the world wars. Throughout his young years, he is constantly reminded of his father’s heroism during the war, while being told few details.

His mother is unable to give him the affection he needs, but he is fortunate to meet a young pianist who, with his family, offers him friendship when he needs it most.

The relationship between the two boys extends to adulthood, when they continue to find solace in each other as they navigate the expectations of their families and their own limitations, and try to find their place in the world.

It is a gentle and subtle read, and seems somehow muted. It is almost as if the writer is being as impartial as Switzerland in writing about the lives of her characters.

I enjoyed it, as I did Rose Tremain’s moving The Road Home, but such is its subtlety that I’m not sure that I will be able to remember its details a few months from now.

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