I knew I was going to love this book when it began with acknowledgments, one of which was to Cowell’s stepmother, who introduced her to the Weber family letters.
An aged Sophie Weber tells the story of her childhood, spent with her three sisters, Josefa, Aloysia, and Constanze, their moody mother and hard-working musician father. As interesting as her family is, however, it is an outsider, Mozart, who draws a young Englishman to interview Sophie and provide the excuse for the story.
Salzburg, Munich, and Vienna provide rich backdrops to Sophie’s story. Josefa and Aloysia have fabulous voices and help supplement the family’s meager income through singing for private parties. Their mother keeps a secret book in which she plots their marriages to members of the nobility, who will rescue the family from their straightened financial circumstances. Every Thursday the family apartment is enlivened by leading musicians who play, dance, and converse–and eat cake.
Enter Mozart, who falls in love with Aloysia, then is planned for Sophie, is secretly longed for by Josefa, and eventually falls in love with and marries Constanze.
Gender, music, and social class themes all swirl around the personalities of this story. Cowell manages to make Mozart a secondary character. It’s the Weber women who dominate this tale and who will, I suspect, prove unforgettable.
Part of the appeal of this book may have been reading it in May on my lawn swing, but it’s Cowell’s characters that are so remarkable. I have another of Cowell’s books in my stacks and will grab some others on my next library trip.