A novel about a man whose life was marked in his youth by a remarkable woman.
At one point in Knoy’s quietly enchanting fiction debut, a sympathetic character comments, “a lot of men—and women too—have an incident early in their life that forms them, determines who they become.” For Nicholas Rohloffsen, the novel’s main character, that moment happened many decades ago when he spent a delightful interlude with a talented pianist named Margot Renard whose spectacular talents and bright spirit left an indelible mark on him. Early on in the novel, Knoy brings to life Nicholas’ long marriage to his wife, Gayle, a wonderful soul mate who’s only been dead for nine weeks when the novel starts. The rich complexity of this relationship adds an extra level of interest to Nicholas’ efforts to learn the fate of Margot. His quest has taken him to an Indiana retirement compound and put him on the trail of an old woman named Katherine Anne Kendall, a woman he suspects might be his long-lost Margot. Nicholas’ life is deeply entwined with music—he’s a distant relative of the famous conductor/composer Victor Rohloffsen (as he tells the compound’s staff, he’s one of the poor Rohloffsens, not one of the rich Rohloffsens), who’d died only two weeks before. Nicholas has no proof that Katherine Kendall is Margot Renard, and as he presses his inquiry, he increasingly deals with Katherine’s daughter Camille Margolis. Knoy blends the separate strands of his plots with considerable skill, always managing to keep the balance between Nicholas’ memories of the past and his intense interest in understanding the present. This is no small order, and some of his characters pay the price in the form of occasionally wooden renditions—most crucially, Margot herself, who remains perhaps more elusive than Knoy’s readers will want. But the bittersweet undertones of the novel are beautifully realized, and the dramatization of music’s power throughout is extremely effective.
A sensitive, multilayered novel about the strength of memory and the nature of fascination.