This novel would have been a wonderful companion when I toured Prague. It is a beautiful city.
This novel is not a travelogue, as you might expect from Paul Theroux. It is atmospheric if you have visited the locale. The prose weighs more to story than descriptive of venue. It traces the search for a music score of presumed importance through Czechoslovakia, London, New York, the Czech Republic and the Mid-West of the U.S..
Otylie, as a young girl is given the score by her ethnically Czech father before he returns to the World War I battlefield. Her father was a collector of musical scores and he tells her to protect the score at all cost. He never returns. Although she does not music, because her father told her that music and war are associated, she obeys his wishes. With the onset of the Nazis into Prague she separates the score, giving each movement to her husband and a friend to protect it from the Nazis and later from the Russians. Her husband dies and people are displaced, so Otylie only has one of the movements.
Meta a young musicologist in New York City is given one of the movements by an elderly friend of Otylie before she dies. Irena requests Meta to find Otylie, recover the other movements and to return the entire sonata to Otylie if she is alive. The novel traces Meta’s efforts to do this.
The story is imbued with classical music history from the 18th Century. There are flashbacks, providing clues to the mystery and adding depth to the characters. The prose serves the story, with much use of dialogue. There is coverage of some of Meta’s romantic relationships along the way, but these serve the story as a whole.
For some, the 500 page novel is too long, but I thought this novel was a page-turner. It has commercial possibilities as an Indie film. It is not “art”, but is an entertaining good read.