On their grand tour of Europe, esteemed 12-year-old musician Nannerl Mozart begins to challenge the social limitations that exclude her from the professional opportunities her younger brother, Wolfi, enjoys.
Told from Nannerl’s youthful third-person-limited perspective supplemented by fictionalized diary entries and letters, the novel speculates on the inner life of Mozart’s older sister, a skilled performer in her own right. Readers are swept into the politics and bustle of Europe’s 18th-century music scene as the Mozart family travels from one performance for nobility to the next. Despite her affection for Wolfi, Nannerl can’t help resenting the attention he receives from adults, especially after she shows a renowned composer the symphony she has written and he laughs in her face. While the author’s note reveals several instances that differ from historical records, the novel truly shines in its descriptions of Nannerl playing and composing music, moments when the voice transcends its generic tone: She envisions herself traveling through arrangements of notes as though they were landscapes or painting the notes into the air colored by her emotions and memories. Originally published in 1996 as The Secret Wish of Nannerl Mozart, the book has a dated feel in the way it addresses gender stereotypes and dynamics, even within its historical setting. Characters are assumed white.
An engaging though somewhat anachronistic glimpse into the life and mind of a talented young woman sidelined in the annals of history. (chronology, glossary, works cited) (Historical fiction. 8-12)