Monday, November 30, 2015

The Song of Hartgrove Hall, by Natasha Solomons

Plume, ISBN 9780147517593, December 2015

At the end of World War II, the three Fox-Talbot sons and their father the General return to Hartgrove Hall, the family home. It's been in use by the military during the war years, and even before that, the family fortunes were declining. The house is decaying, and they have no money to do necessary repairs. The General thinks the only sensible course is to dynamite the house, and sell the property. The two older sons, Jack and George, war veterans themselves, are determined to save it, farming the land themselves and earning the money to repair it. Harry, the youngest, just eighteen, wants to pursue a career as a composer, but he can't say no to his brothers, and agrees to stay on and help.

Then Jack brings home his girlfriend, popular wartime singer Edie Rose, and Harry falls in love.

In 2000, Edie has recently died, and Harry is grieving. He hasn't composed anything since Edie died; he's no longer hearing the music in his head. Then his older daughter, Clara, facing a temporary child care crisis, brings her difficult youngest child, the four-year-old Robin, and asks Harry to watch him for a day.

Harry discovers his grandson has a natural gift for and love of music.

In alternating sections, we follow the painful and confusing start of both Harry's career as a classical composer, and his relationship with Edie, and his slow coming to grips with his loss of Edie, and finally facing his guilt over having taken his brother's beloved from him. It's an emotionally engrossing story, and Harry's growth as both a person and a composer is compelling.  His relationship with his grandson is as fascinating as his relationship with Edie, and Clara is engaging as a smart, capable, woman who loves her father and her son, but in many ways just has to accept that there's a lot she doesn't understand about either of them.

This is a very rewarding family drama. Recommended.

I received an electronic galley of this book from the publisher via Penguin's First to Read program.