“Music and Silence” by Rose Tremain was recommended to me as a superb example of a multi-voiced novel.
This is a long book (+450 pages), superbly written in a lyrical prose style. Set in 17th century Denmark, it’s well-researched and brilliantly conveys what life must have been like in that time. In addition, it cleverly hints at correlations between that corrupt world and today’s world.
From the historical King Christian IV of Denmark to the fictitious English lutenist, Peter Claire, the characters are richly drawn and interesting. Although there is no dramatic plot to follow -indeed, the story itself doesn’t even follow a linear path, but jumps around from character to character – there is a strong element of both love and discreet eroticism woven through the story. The sweep of human emotions keep one turning the pages as one is drawn into the complexity of not only the vast array of characters, but of human nature itself.
Tremain’s beautiful style is, mostly, easy to read, although at times she was long-winded. Her ability to change tenses effortlessly was impressive. Whether writing in first person present or third person past, Tremain kept the text so fluid the shifts were hardly noticeable. I did, however, find her addiction to the “:” as a punctuation mark distracting.
These are minor issues, though, because ultimately the fluid and haunting “Music and Silence” can be read again and again. Each reading will, I'm sure, produce some new gem to savour. I would highly recommend it when you have enough leisure time to linger over the pages.