Powerful, shocking, gloriously gothic and intensely autobiographical novel about a 20th century women in New Orleans who is haunted and inspired by a 19th century ghost.
Recurrent memories of past tragedies conjure up a violin-playing ghost in Rice's tortured, surely semi-autobiographical tale of love and grief. Narrator Triana has long accused herself of complicity in the deaths of her alcoholic mother and cancer-ridden daughter, but when her husband dies, too, an angry ghost comes to compound her guilt. In life, a 19th-century Viennese aristocrat who studied the violin with Beethoven, Stefan Stefanovsky, torments Triana with her lack of talent, then transports her into his own past, where she witnesses his death and hears performances by Beethoven and Paganini. Returning to the present, Triana makes a pilgrimage to Brazil where she believes her daughter may be reincarnated. Although Rice tends to group her novels into series, this ghost story bears little relationship to last year's Servant of the Bones. Its themes are darker, its ghost more seductive and its events clearly more personal. With so many parallels between the novel's details and what Rice has revealed of her own life‘from her battles with weight to her Brazilian odyssey‘one almost wonders whether Rice has seen something like the apparition that her heroine describes. However much of the tale is pure invention, a new lyricism‘in keeping with the music that mocks and ultimately consoles her for her mortality‘brings Triana's strong, textured voice almost audibly to life. 750,000 first printing; BOMC main selection; simultaneous Random House audio and large print edition. (Oct.)
Don't look for vampires or witches in Rice's latest, though it is still haunted by malevolent spirits. A young woman who longs to become a great violinist is at first abetted and then dangerously controlled by the ghost of a Russian aristocrat.