Jacobs’ historical novel details the life of Franz Schubert.
Published posthumously by the parents of debut author Jacobs, the novel imagines the Austrian composer’s life. Schubert is a miserable school teacher who has always loved the patterns of music, however, he cannot bring himself to leave teaching, disappoint his family and compose full time. But he’s soon befriended by the decadent Schober, a law student who believes Schubert’s only responsibilities should be to his divinely inspired compositions. Schubert tries to dismiss these indulgent ideas but strikes up a love affair with Schober, marking the beginning of gay pinings which will color the rest of the composer’s life, including his physical demise. The novel propels itself on the tensions of love and success, as Schubert’s compositions gain him recognition but never the fulfilling career he desires. Meanwhile, his various relations with both men and women continue to hinder and fascinate him, up until his early death. A thoughtfully drawn portrait of Schubert’s interior world adds depth to a straightforward story. Several anachronisms distract from an otherwise beautifully rendered narrative, and Jacobs injects a rather casual modernity into Schubert’s life, imagining fraternal drinking scenes and patches of dialogue as if Schubert were a young man living today. The novel’s most lovely passages occur when Schubert hears music—his own songs performed, a stirring composition in his mind, or the work of the haunting master Beethoven. The author writes about Schubert’s musicality with grace and serious compassion. An air of mystery is added when Jacobs’ parents reveal in the afterword that no one suspected her to have such a natural affinity with Franz Schubert; her dreamy portrait of the composer confirms a deep connection.
Fans of historical fiction may especially appreciate this entertaining recreation of Schubert’s life; familiarity with the composer and his music is not a prerequisite.