BODY AND SOUL by Frank Conroy

BODY AND SOUL

KIRKUS REVIEW

 From rags to riches--by way of musical genius--in this alluringly atmospheric first novel by Conroy of Stop-Time (1967) fame. In a squalid basement apartment on New York's Third Avenue toward WW II's end, a fatherless little kid named Claude Rawlings spends his days alone while his mother--obese, left-wing, prone to booze and to bouts of instability--drives a cab for a living. The days are long, and to while them away Claude bangs around on a small white piano (his mother was once a singer) half buried in the back of the apartment--and the rest, you could say, is history. Claude's awakening to music is splendidly, rivetingly, described, and the Horatio Alger-esque clichÇs and coincidences are readily forgiven as the boy tears through his beginning-level lessons, becomes the student of nearby music-store proprietor (and ÇmigrÇ, having fled from the Nazis) Aaron Weisfeld, stumbles into a full scholarship at a ritzy private high school, has his big break performing the Mozart double concerto with the world's greatest pianist, marries a pretty girl with a five-million-dollar trust fund, gets divorced five years later when it's discovered that.... In other words, once Claude is grown and launched, Conroy fills out his novel with more and more soap-opera turns, among them the death of Aaron Weisfeld (after the long-postponed revelation of his past), Claude's resultant and extended breakdown (connected also with his own medical secret), his sudden recovery and meteoric rise to new fame as the composer of a prize-winning concerto to be premiered in London, where, in case you're wondering what ever became of Claude's long-ago first teen heartthrob, or why he still hasn't ever found out who his father was.... Still, especially for the first two-thirds: a masterful coming-of-ager set in a now-vanished New York, with great music, and the life of great music, galore. (First printing of 75,000; film rights to Spring Creek Productions)

Pub Date: Sept. 29th, 1993
ISBN: 0-395-51946-2
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1993




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