Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mozart's Last Aria by Matt Rees — 336 pgs

Upon the unexpected death of the great composer and musician Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the city of Austria is overwhelmed with sorrow. For Mozart’s sister Nannerl, a woman separated from him by past recriminations and familial grudges, the loss is almost more than she can bear. When Nannerl discovers that Wolfgang may not have succumbed to disease as she had once suspected but may have been murdered, she leaves her loveless marriage and five children in the country to travel to the heart of Austria. Nannerl hopes to learn the truth behind her brother’s death, but upon her arrival, she discovers that there was more to Wolfgang than his music. It seems that Wolfgang’s involvement in a secret masonic society may have put him in greater danger than he had ever imagined. Now it’s up to Nannerl to ferret out the truth when deception lies around every corner and to discover the secrets of the masons and those of the highest echelons of Austrian nobility and society. Soon, Nannerl is buried deep in secrets, discovering along the way that her passion and talent as Wolfgang forgotten sister has not diminished over the many years that Nannerl spent forgetting about him. In this historical novel full of suspense and intrigue, the passion of Mozart’s music comes alive with ferocity alongside the strange secrets and nuances of his death.

This book was a bit of a blended experience for me. While I didn’t know the strange facts surrounding the composer and musician’s death, I had assumed this book would be more of a historical novel that dealt with his life, and his music in particular. I was very surprised to discover that this was more of a mystery novel than I had originally anticipated. While I usually enjoy these types of novels, there were some strange things about this book that kept me from buying into the story completely. Part of it had to do with the mood of the book and part of it had to do with the scope of the story that Rees was trying to tell.

First off, this was a very melodramatic book. There was swooning and weeping galore, and sometimes I grew weary of it. Everything was done with the utmost emotion and it made me tired just to contemplate the vast amount of emotional energy that everyone was expending. Perhaps it was a case of being hit with a very dramatic book at the wrong time, but time and time again, I grew bothered that everyone in this tale was so hypersensitive. There was always great weeping and gnashing of teeth at every turn, and frankly, it was overdone and bothersome. I get that one would be overwhelmed at the passing of a great man, but this felt a little shlocky to me, and as it drew on and on, I lost interest in what I felt was an overabundance of sentimentality in what could have been a solid and tight read.

I also felt that the mystery was too complex for me to fully become engaged in the story. The players became muddled in the intricate framework of the mystery and I wasn’t quite sure why some of these things seemed to have such a strong impact and importance. It took a lot of explaining from the author to pat it all into shape, and because of that, I felt that the writing was a little heavy-handed. Personally, I don’t like to feel like I’m being led and directed by an author so diligently towards the things that he or she feels are important. After awhile, I ceased to be intrigued and became annoyed at the over-execution that was taking place. A reader shouldn’t be able to spot a red herring the minute that they step into the story, but that’s what happened here. There was a feeling of intense orchestration in this tale that left it void of spontaneity and curiously, robbing the mystery of its significance and power.

Though things were definitely amiss in my experiences of this book, I really enjoyed the historical aspects and details that were imbued in the plot. I liked getting to know the background story of Mozart and his sister, and learning about the things that kept them apart for so long. The book was rich in historical detail that I found to be pitch perfect, but that was marred by the inclusion of so many drama-laden tangents. After reading the author’s notes at the end of the book, I discovered that all these events were based on historical fact, yet this story is not what has been proven to be true and it’s mostly speculation. I felt that as a reader, I had been led down a path that was not only frustrating but that hindered my enjoyment of the more sedate aspects of Mozart’s life and death. I usually don’t have a problem with historical embellishment, but this book took things in a direction I wasn’t pleased with, and I felt that I would have been much happier had the story not been so far-fetched and dramatic.

Perhaps my reactions to this book have something to do with my utter lack of knowledge of Mozart and his life before picking this book up. Perhaps it’s only that the book and I didn’t get on well together, but whatever the case may be, I found this to be a book that I alternately loved and loathed in equal measure. Readers who are fascinated by secret societies and theories of conspiracy would likely have a very different reaction than I did, and if you’re that type of reader, then I would say to go for it! If not, this one might better be left alone.


Author Photo About the Author

Matt Rees is an award-winning crime novelist and foreign correspondent. He is the author of the internationally acclaimed Omar Yussef crime series, including The Collaborator of Bethlehem. He is also the author of Cain’s Field, a nonfiction account of Israeli and Palestinian society. Matt lives in Jerusalem.

You can visit Matt at his website, read his blog, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

TLC Book Tours A warm thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for me to read and review. Please continue to follow the tour by visiting these other blogs:

Thursday, November 3rd:Life In Review
Monday, November 7th:Raging Bibliomania
Tuesday, November 8th:Reviews from the Heart
Wednesday, November 9th:Book Hooked Blog
Tuesday, November 15th:Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, November 16th:The Road to Here
Thursday, November 17th:Book Drunkard
Wednesday, November 23rd:The House of the Seven Tails
Monday, November 28th:Life Is Short. Read Fast.
Wednesday, December 7th: Reading Lark
Thursday, December 8th:Life in the Thumb
Monday, December 12th:That’s What She Read


This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

27 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I loved Amadeus, but I don't think I would like all the swooning and weeping in this either!

Mrs Q Book Addict said...

Oh, I haven't heard about this book. The cover really drew me in. I'm going to add this one to my wish list because it sounds like I would love it.

Jenna said...

When I first heard about this one I was pretty excited, but after reading your review I don't think I would enjoy it at all. Like you, I had assumed that this was more based in historical facts and would teach me a little about Mozart's life. However, I'm not into melodramatic novels that would probably induce me to roll my eyes. Another honest and excellent review!

Audra said...

Oooh, very interesting! I'm starting this later this week and have been sort of ambivalent already since I have strong feelings about the author (I made the mistake of reading his author bio which is so over-the-top, it about passed out from snickering, and I'm not sure that was the effect Rees wanted). Will be curious to see what I think of this -- I'm all for drama, but in moderation.

Nymeth said...

I'm not a fan of melodrama either, so this doesn't sound like a book I'd be too crazy about. But as always I enjoyed your review :)

Ti said...

I don't care for swooning. I certainly wouldn't expect this one to be a mystery. Sort of misleading, I'd say.

Marie said...

we have a ton of copies of this book at the store and i've been curious about it, so i appreciate your thoughts. probably not for me it sounds like.

Harvee said...

I like mysteries so that aspect of the book would intrigue me. Too bad about the melodrama and your disappointment in the lack of historical detail about Mozart. I knew his life was dramatic after seeing the movie, Amadeus, probably more historically accurate.

Tracy said...

Think I'll stick with the movie version of Amadeus - melodrama I can do without!

Vasilly said...

Swooning and weeping, weeping and swooning. . . That sounds like too much for me. I hope your next read is much better.

nomadreader said...

While I am intrigued with mysteries and secret societies, this novel still doesn't sound that intriguing. I have somewhat of an aversion to classical music (strange, I know), so I think I'll pass on this one. The new movie about Mozart's sister does look interesting to me though (perhaps someone should write a novel about her! Or someone may have already...)

reviewsbylola said...

I don't necessarily have a big interest in Mozart but I do love Austria and I was ale to visit his home when I was there, so that would be enough to get me interested in this book.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I'll admit that, aside from the film, and some familiarity with his music, I have huge gaps in my knowledge about Mozart.

I appreciate your review, but am likely to pass on the book until/unless I have a large base of his story.

Now I'm in the mood to *watch* the movie Amadeus (and, yes, I have the techno Amadeus song running thru my head now).

Aths said...

Sounds like this is a well-written book that suffered from poor execution. I get bothered by too much emotion too. I like to sense emotion than to see it pour all over me. Sorry that this didn't work too well.

Aarti said...

Oh, bummer! Mozart is such a fascinating figure, so I wish this book worked out better. But then, I don't really think I'd react well to him in a mystery, and certainly not a melodramatic mystery (though I could see him being a melodramatic person).

Jenners said...

Most of what I know about Mozart comes from the movie Amadeus. I don't know if that is good or bad! It did make me fall in love with his music though.

I don't think this book and I would get along well.

bermudaonion said...

I don't think I'd like the melodrama, but I do adore the cover.

Stacy at A Novel Source said...

I would get quite aggravated with the emotional energy expended too...I love a good historical fiction mystery but that would be too much for me. It's a shame because I love Amadeus! Thanks for the great review

Suko said...

Zibilee, thanks for your thoughtful and honest review. You raise some interesting points here. Were people more emotional in Mozart's day?

Beth F said...

I only know a bit about Mozart's life and death, but I think the swooning and weeping would be too much for me.

TheBookGirl said...

Great honest review Heather.

I probably would have been drawn to this one because I would be interested in learning more about Mozart -- like you were before you began this book, I am unfamilar with the circumstances surrounding his death.

After reading your review, I think I will probably pass. I trust your opinion, and the things that bothered you would most likely bother me -- the prominence and convolution of the mystery, and the over-emoting of the characters.

Kailana said...

I rather liked the cover to this book. I am not sure if I want to read it, though...

heathertlc said...

I had no idea about the mystery surrounding Mozart's death. I'd be interested in reading this one to learn more about that mystery, in spite of the issues you had with other parts of the book.

Thanks for being a part of this tour!

Kaye said...

Definitely love the cover but dont think I would pick this one up after reading your astute review. That wailing melodrama would have me snapping "get over it already" to the characters. Thank you for such a wonderfully honest review.

Amy said...

I'm sorry this book wasn't quite what you hoped or expected. I don't know a lot about Mozart either and I thought this was going to be more about him and his music. Oh well. I only skimmed your review because I am reviewing in a couple of weeks. I'm not a fan of melodrama - weeping, gnashing of the teeth is not my thing. But we'll see!

I shall return :o)

Darlene said...

I had been curious about this novel as I like books about Mozart but I'm not much for the mystery aspect of the book so I'm glad I opted out of this one.

Jules said...

Sounds like an interesting premise, but by the sounds if your review, I don't think I'd enjoy it as much. The historical side with a bit of mystery yes, but the swooning and weeping no. And I don't think I would have liked being led by the author. Good review.

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