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The Garden Where the Brass Band Played
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The book is a coming-of-age novel, something that in other languages is expressed more pointedly as the novel of education. Nol, 'the judge's son,' is the person whose moral sentiments are being educated. But that education is acquired at the expense of an infinitely more valuable person, the young woman Nol loves, who has been exploited by men of weight and standing in their provincial community-all of them human, disgracefully human. Not tells the story from the time he was five years old, when, inspired by a rendition of one of Souza's marches in the garden where the brass band played, he danced with the conductor's daughter, taller and older than himself, before a bemused assemblage of adults. The web of incident and reflection in Nol's narration astonishes the reader with the texture of the lives it evokes, ending with Nol's small, crucial defection that precipitates tragedy. In The Garden Where the Brass Band Played, as with every real novel of the genre, it is the reader whose sentiments are educated, by the pain of it, and no doubt rather too late.
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About the Author

Simon Vestdijk was trained as a physician, but practiced medicine for a short time only and thereafter devoted himself to literature. In the Netherlands he is regarded as one of the great men of letters of this century. He was an immensely prolific novelist, and also wrote a vast number of stories, poems, and essays. The Garden Where the Brass Band Played appears to be set in the period of the late twenties or early thirties, and in a provincial town whose mores bear a surprising resemblance to those of North America at that time.

Reviews

First in a translated series of modern Dutch classics, this powerful novel by poet-critic-novelist Vestdijk (the Anton Wachter books) traces a boy's coming-of-age in the provincial city of ``W.'' At age five, Nol Rieske, a judge's son, hears a Sousa march played in the public garden and falls under the spell of the gifted alcoholic conductor Cuperus and his nine-year-old daughter Trix, whom Nol loves unconditionally. Before going off to medical school, Nol studies piano with Cuperus, inflamed by the master's musical fervor. When the Opera Society sponsors a gala performance of Carmen , Cuperus conducts the chorus, and Trix sings a small role, but mishaps spoil the event and the Cuperus fortunes plummet, with Trix becoming a barmaid, trapped into promiscuity. Nol's innocent illusions prevent his recognizing until too late how the town's crass indifference has crushed these artists. Vestdijk counterpoints bourgeois values against the lyricism of love and art, as the grief-stricken Nol seeks solace in his memory of the Garden's resonating magic. (Dec.)

A celebration of musical genius. New York Sunday Times This powerful novel counterpoints bourgeois values against the lyricism of love and art. Publishers Weekly

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