By Jessica Duchen
Publisjed by Unbound October 2020
What it’s about?
Who was Beethoven’s ‘Immortal Beloved’?
After Ludwig van Beethoven’s death, a love letter in his writing was discovered, addressed only to his ‘Immortal Beloved’.
Decades later, Countess Therese
Brunsvik claims to have been the composer’s lost love. Yet is she concealing a tragic secret?
Who is the one person who deserves to know the truth?
Becoming Beethoven’s pupils in 1799, Therese and her sister Josephine
followed his struggles against the onset of deafness, Viennese society’s flamboyance, privilege and hypocrisy and the upheavals of the Napoleonic
wars. While Therese sought liberation, Josephine found the odds stacked
against even the most unquenchable of passions…
What I think:
I have read some fantastic historical fiction this year and this book is up there with the best.
I know absolutely nothing about Beethoven so this book has been a fascinating read.
Beethoven’s genius and passion for his art, his dedication to his students and patrons is apparent throughout the book.
There is a lot about the music in the book – names of pieces and descriptions as the Brunsvik family respond to listening to and playing new pieces. I have found it has added to my experience of the book to listen to the pieces as I have read.
The Brunsvik sisters are fascinating characters.
Younger sister Josephine, known as Pepi is beautiful and a gifted pianist. The book portrays the intense connection between her and Beethoven that reveals itself in his music.
Theresa is mature and serious, interested in education she dreams of running a school. She provides friendship and support for both Pepi and Beethoven, sometimes at the expense of her own desires.
The backdrop for the book is Austria and Hungary during the Napoleonic Wars. The Brunsvik sisters face the constraints of a society with strict expectations for women born into the nobility. Josephine is expected to marry an aristocrat regardless of their compatibility and financial situation. No matter how successful and acclaimed Beethoven becomes, his status as a commoner means his relationship with Pepi is doomed.
Theresa is unconventional, vowing never to marry she manages family estates and cares for her nieces and nephews while developing her own interests and studies.
This is a chunky book. The writer completely immerses you in the Theresa’s world. Her voice is clear and distinct. She loves and supports her family and Beethoven but is not blind to their faults and prejudices.
The world created in the novel is utterly compelling. Duchen seemlessly blends fact and fiction as Theresa tells the story and reveals the “truth” about Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved”.
This was a fascinating read and I am definitely inspired to find out more about the period and Theresa in particular.
Thank you to Anne Cater, Unbound and Jessica Duchen for inviting me to be a part of this fascinating blog tour that celebrates the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth
About the writer:
Jessica Duchen writes for and about music, encompassing fiction, biography,
journalism, plays, narrated concerts and opera librettos (notably Roxanna
Panufnik’s Silver Birch at Garsington Opera, 2017).
She was classical music
correspondent for the Independent from 2004 to 2016 and has written for the Guardian, the Sunday Times, the Observer and BBC Music Magazine. Her
biographies of the composers Gabriel Fauré and Erich Wolfgang Korngold have met with wide acclaim and her novel Ghost Variations (Unbound, 2016) was chosen by John Suchet in the Daily Mail as his Best Read of 2016. Jessica was born in London and studied music at Cambridge. She lives in London with her violinist husband.