In 1970s Massachusetts, a young musician explores her sexuality and relationship to the arts in Reinhardt’s debut novel.
Yvette Berg, a 23-year-old Parisian music composition student, arrives in the United States in 1977, seeking a position at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Her mission is to teach students about the connections between classical music and other traditional forms of art. She soon stumbles into a series of difficult-to-define relationships with various acquaintances, including Kolya Brodsky, the attractive Soviet cellist living in Yvette’s building; Abe Lipinsky, her brilliant but adulterous professor; and Sophie, a violinist at the Boston conservatory. However, Yvette can’t escape the memories of a past affair with her music professor in Paris, which resulted in her giving up a child for adoption. Reinhardt introduces some thoughtful ideas about the relationship between artist, artwork, and audience, especially when Yvette realizes the parallels between her situation and “Verklärte Nacht,” a Richard Demel poem that inspired one of her favorite musical pieces. The characters are impressively nuanced, with realistic motivations and an abundance of flaws. Nevertheless, the formality of the writing causes passionate scenes to seem, at times, too impersonal: “Yvette had never before had an experience like it. She cried out in sexual exclamation many times.” Readers with a strong interest in classical composition will enjoy the detailed analyses of composers, but others may become lost. Reinhardt also spends too much time on exposition and summary, and dwells too much on the minutiae of Yvette’s daily routine.
Equal parts musical treatise and romantic journey, this story will find a ready audience in classical music lovers but may prove less exciting for others.