Friday, January 30, 2009

Review: The Spanish Bow by Andromeda Romano-Lax


The Spanish Bow is an amazing look at a tumultuous period in Spanish history. Feliu Delargo is a young man who always seems to profit from his tragedies. His father's death brings him his first real treasure: a cello bow. Because of a hip injury during his birth, he cannot play his violin standing up, so he plays it sitting down, like a cello. His mother's personal tragedy helps him escape to Barcelona. His naivete and his love of music shine through every phase of his life. We really get a look at Spain and music through the eyes of a growing young man - his outlook changes and matures and he discusses his mistakes and changes of vision.

As a young man, Feliu meets Al-Cerraz - a man who will become a pivotal character in his life and his music career. His introductions and influence, as well as his friendship, help to chart the course of Feliu's life. Although their approaches to music and love and politics are very different, they remain close for many years. Their reunion late in life brings them into the company of Aviva, a violinist with secrets of her own and a woman who will bring them closer as well as drive them apart. The story takes us from Catalan to Madrid to Barcelona and all over Europe, eventually to America and back to Europe. It tells the story of the Republican Revolution, life under Franco, Hitler and all the political shifts and changes that came with them. Feliu was witness to a remarkable period in the history of his country - it changes him in a profound way and we clearly see those changes.

As a young music student, Feliu is sent to study with the court composer at the royal palace in Madrid. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of Feliu's life at court. His friendship with Queen Ena, the details of life in the palace and all its intrigues, was really interesting to me.

Romano-Lax started this project as a biography of Pablo Casals. Over time, it evolved into more of a mosaic, incorporating major historical events and the lives of other musicians who lived in interesting times. The story is beautifully written, with fascinating, well-developed characters and a pleasure to read. My copy of The Spanish Bow came from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program; purchase your copy at Amazon.com.

1 comment:

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

I have this one on my shelves and am now really looking forward to reading it!