The Gustav Sonata

The Gustav Sonata

Book - 2016
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***Shortlisted for the Costa Book Award***

** The Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller **

What is the difference between friendship and love? Or between neutrality and commitment? Gustav Perle grows up in a small town in 'neutral' Switzerland, where the horrors of the Second World War seem a distant echo. But Gustav's father has mysteriously died, and his adored mother Emilie is strangely cold and indifferent to him. Gustav's childhood is spent in lonely isolation, his only toy a tin train with painted passengers staring blankly from the carriage windows.

As time goes on, an intense friendship with a boy of his own age, Anton Zwiebel, begins to define Gustav's life. Jewish and mercurial, a talented pianist tortured by nerves when he has to play in public, Anton fails to understand how deeply and irrevocably his life and Gustav's are entwined.

Fierce, astringent, profoundly tender, Rose Tremain's beautifully orchestrated novel asks the question, what does it do to a person, or to a country, to pursue an eternal quest for neutrality, and self-mastery, while all life's hopes and passions continually press upon the borders and beat upon the gate.

Publisher: London :, Chatto & Windus,, 2016
ISBN: 9781784740030
Characteristics: 241 pages ;,23 cm


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Dec 23, 2018

Place. People. Coming of age in World War II Switzerland, this novel moves seamlessly between the war, the characters' past, and present-day.

Jun 21, 2017

Simple but engaging style; interesting story. A rare, for me at least, view of a small town in wartime Switzerland. I found the natural presentation of not unusual but still interesting characters fascinating.

Mar 20, 2017

A very beautiful book that has stayed with me months later.

Dec 22, 2016

Had to check the inside flap to make sure I was not reading a young adult's book. Thin plot and characters. Too simplistic. Did not finish and would not recommend.

Dec 19, 2016

Like a sonata, this novel about the complexities of friendship moves backward and forward in time. Subtle. Tremain writes with a soft sensibility.

Nov 05, 2016

The story line of Gustav and his friend Anton spans time. We experience how relationships are effected by Hitler's Germany on those who took refuge in Switzerland and the police officer that protected them. The author takes us into the families of the main characters and the relationships that interconnect one another - most of all Gustav and Anton and their struggles with identity.

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