Title: Sonata for Miriam
Author: Linda Olsson
Release Date: February 24, 2009
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
Genre: Mystery, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
From the front flap:
On a midsummer day in Auckland, New Zealand, two events occur that will change composer Adam Anker’s life forever. As a result, Adam embarks on a journey to uncover his family’s past that takes him from New Zealand to Krakow, Poland, where he learns of his parents’ fate during World War II, and finally to Sweden. There he meets the mother of his child for the first time in over twenty years and must face the impossible choice she once forced him to make.
Linda Olsson’s first novel, Astrid and Veronika, introduced readers to her gorgeous prose and her extraordinary understanding of human relationships. In Sonata for Miriam, she once again charts that terrain that also explores the significant impact of history on individual lives.
The first thing I have to say about Sonata for Miriam is about the writing. Linda Olsson’s prose is, quite simply, beautiful. The writing is lyrical, almost if Olsson is composing a song to the music in her mind. It seems to smooth out the storyline, cloaking everything in her gorgeous words. I think Sonata for Miriam is worth reading just for the amazing writing, but fortunately, the novel has other positive qualities as well.
Sonata for Miriam seems to have two plots running through the course of the novel, set off by the mysterious occurrence concerning Adam’s daughter, Miriam. The first is the secret behind Adam’s family history. Adam never knew anything about his mother’s family and decides that the time has come for him to reconnect with his past. The second concerns Miriam’s mother, Cecelia, and the circumstances in which she left Adam. As much of the novel is written to Cecelia (referring to her as “you”), I would argue that this is actually the more important of the two storylines. The first is something Adam needs to face before he is ready to confront Cecelia.
I really enjoyed reading about Adam’s journey to find his “lost” past. As each layer of the past was peeled back, the reader (and Adam) discovered more information, more pieces of an incomplete puzzle. It was a well-written mystery, and when the final pieces were in place, it really paid off. For me, that was definitely the hook of the novel that kept me interested and moved the story along.
Once Adam has discovered the truth about his past, it is time to move on to Cecelia. This is where the only jarring transition occurs in the book; the narrator completely switches for no apparent reason about 3/4 of the way through the book. After reading Cecelia’s story, it is understandable why Olsson chose to do this – only Cecelia could properly relate her own tale. While this is arguably the most emotional part of the novel, the whole transition didn’t sit well with me. I felt like it happened too late in the book to really make sense.
I enjoyed Sonata for Miriam, despite the odd narrator choices. It’s a beautifully written and moving book with a mystery that really drives the novel forward and keeps the reader hooked. I definitely want to go back and read Olsson’s debut novel Astrid and Veronika.