Pick of the Week: Vienna Nocturne by Vivien Shotwell

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vienna2The title Vienna Nocturne is very apt for this book, because a nocturne is a night song, defined as a “composition of a dreamy or pensive character.” And in many ways, this lush period novel unfolds like a dream. This is the story of Anna Storace, an opera prodigy who leaves her native London and achieves fame and fortune in continental Europe in the late 18th century. She sings with some of the leading operatic stars of the time and works with Salieri and Mozart, with whom she eventually develops a love affair. The book is Anna’s coming-of-age tale, as she grows from a naïve ingénue to a woman who comes to know rejection and heartbreak. Anna’s life is one of great contrasts: the sweet, charming persona she displays on stage camouflages her painful and difficult personal life. Mozart and his music save her from her eventual breakdown, and their sweet, poignant love affair is delicately and beautifully written.

There’s no actual evidence that Mozart and Storace had an affair, although he did write some of his most beautiful arias for her, including the role of Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro.   The author of this book is a trained opera singer herself, and she demonstrates a strong understanding of operatic technique, as well as repertoire from the period. Her characters, including Mozart, are richly imagined, as is her vision of 18th century Vienna.

This is a beautiful, atmospheric book that will appeal to lovers of historical fiction and classical music fans.   (Note: this book will be released on February 25, but it is available now for patrons to place holds in our catalog.)

- Andrea Larson, alarson@cooklib.org


Andrea Larson works as a Readers' Advisor at Cook Park Library and loves to connect great people with great books.  She'll read or watch pretty much anything (except horror -- she's kind of a wimp that way).  She's currently working on her Master's in Library and Information Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.