Monday, May 4, 2015

The Silver Swan by Elena Delbanco

The Silver Swan by Elena Delbanco
Published May 2015 by Other Press
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
Alexander Feldmann is a revered and sought-after performer whose prodigious talent, striking good looks and worldly charm prove irresistible to all who hear and encounter him. After years of searching, he acquires a glorious cello, the Silver Swan, a rare Stradivarius masterpiece long lost to the world of music.

Mariana is Alexander’s only child and the maestro has large ambitions for her. By the age of nineteen she emerges as a star cellist in her own right, and is seen as the inheritor of her father's genius. There are whispers that her career might well outpace his. Mariana believes the Silver Swan will one day be hers, until a stunning secret from her father’s past entwines her fate and that of the Silver Swan in ways she could never have imagined.

My Thoughts:
It's a world of classical music and I love classical music so I was immediately drawn to this book. Delbanco does a fine job of imagining what it would be like to grow up in the shadow of a renowned maestro, someone idolized by the world, someone whose ego has grown even larger than his immense talent. Mariana's mother was crushed by the weight of being married to such a man; Mariana yearned to live up to his expectations, to be loved by a father who only seemed to find merit in a child who might also be a virtuoso. It was not a happy life; imagine loving someone who loved his cello more than anything.
"Her mother's anger washed over Mariana, the bystander, and scared her. She tried to understand how her mother could love her father so passionately and protectively, craving his attention and devoting her life to him, while at the same time resenting his success and raging at his absence."
Just as her star was reaching its zenith as a solo performing, coming out from behind her father's shadow, Mariana quit performing by herself. It was something her father could never forgive her, even though it meant that in his declining years, it freed her up to be his caregiver. Mariana felt it was worth it, felt her father finally had come to appreciate her. After he died, though, she receives the ultimate betrayal at his hands. I couldn't help but understand why she made some of the bad choices she made, why she felt the way she did, and hope for her to find peace. Except that...the key relationship that drives events after Alexander's will is read just seemed to happen too quickly for me and I had a hard time buying into the depth of Mariana's feelings.

There's a big twist to this book, one that I saw coming then thought maybe Delbanco wasn't going to use after all, that involves that relationship. Let's just say it kind of made my skin crawl. And I was never certain it was fully resolved. So I was left, at the end of this book, both happy and a little creeped out.

Best part of the book for me? All of the references to particular pieces of music which I had to immediately find performances of on YouTube. Let's just say that any book that comes with its own great soundtrack is a winner for me!


  1. This sounds like a really good book despite the creepiness factor. I think I have an idea what it may have been. Anyhow I haven't heard of this one before but I think I'd like it.

  2. I am not familiar with this book, but you've got me curious. Books that delve into the father/daughter relationship are especially interest to me, perhaps because of my own complicated relationship with my dad.