The Gustav Sonata
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.
This really was an easy read as well as being a real page-turner; an excellent choice for the latter stages of the Easter holidays. The difficulty now will be finding another book that betters it or is equally captivating. I loved the narrative and the world created by the author where sadness and happiness coexist. The first section of the book introduces us to the young friends Anton and Gustav; its second section looks back to Switzerland in the years before the war, where the 20-year-old Emilie, Gustav’s mother-to-be, seduces and marries Erich Perle, the town’s assistant chief of police. And in the final section, the novel moves to the late 20th century to explore the nature of love and friendship and how it develops and changes over time. Without giving too much away, the story ends on an uplifting and positive note!