So I’ve long been fascinated by the relationship between Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms (due to Personal Issues,) but my greatest takeaway from this novel is, in the end, who can explain these things? I’m not sure if that was A. Manette Ansay’s point (and if it was, I completely missed it) but I felt afterwards that it’s really none of our business if their obvious affection for one another ever turned into a physical affair. Because how does it affect us? How is their privacy less important than our prurient (as let’s face it, there’s no way one can label it as high-minded) interest? Every love story, like every family, happy or otherwise, is unique and dynamic and understandable really only to the people involved, though if we’re lucky, one of them is gifted enough to translate it for us. But again, what is the point of speculation, particularly in this case? They were best friends for decades, passionately attached to one another. Need we know more? This is a serious question: please chime in if you have an opinion.
As to the book itself, I found the fictionalization of Clara and Johannes far more convincing, and engrossing, than the modern half. Which I found odd, given the first-person narrative of the latter. It’s hard to be sympathetic to Jeanette’s self-sabotage, or to fathom Hart’s unreliably clinical attitude to their relationship, harder still to understand the necessity of using them to frame the narrative at all. Their story felt like filler in an already slight book. But I’m glad I read it, if only to lay to rest my own curiosity regarding Clara and Johannes with a firm “yep, none of my business.” Perhaps there’s a dash of transference there, but this exhaustive study of their relationship quite cured me of my need to know more.