Tempo Rubato by Brendan Carroll
I first came across Brendan Carroll and his book Tempo Rubato: Stolen Time at http://www.kindleboards.com/. With my background in music, and my own novel having similar themes of music and time travel, I couldn't help but be intrigued with the summary. A mysterious letter found with a murder victim in the 1990's is in all respects a perfect forgery of the script and style of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 18th century composer. But the letter is addressed to the murder victim and written with a modern pen. Elisse Mannheim, Mozartean expert, is called to examine the document and, intrigued, applies for a position with the company on whose letterhead it is written. She soon finds herself working as the assistant to composer William Masters, who is either crazy, or Mozart himself..com
I give Brendan Carroll what I, as an author, find the highest accolade: your book kept me up all night! Considering I was reading on computer, which is by far not my favorite mode of enjoying a good story, that praise means even more than it would for another book. I ended up setting aside all my own work, telling myself just one more page, just one more chapter, let me just see what happens next. Poof, a day was gone!
Mr. Carroll kept the plot going with one surprise after another, and kept me as a reader guessing. This is a vital part of writing a good novel, but there are so many good things to say about this book beyond that: humor, thorough research, memorable scenes, good characterization, and vivid descriptions.
I found myself laughing out loud throughout Tempo Rubato. I felt Mr. Carroll captured Mozart's character and humor effortlessly. It never seemed forced. I laughed at his antics, his puns, his wit, and the wit of the author himself in some of the lines and situations coming from other characters.
To me, part of the attraction of historical fiction is that it opens up new worlds to those of us caught firmly in the twenty-first century, and I feel the best historical fiction inspires us to learn more about the character, event, or period. I appreciated the research that obviously went into this book, and left it wishing I had more time to delve into Mozart myself. The descriptions of the variety of moods in Mozart's music inspired me to make a playlist on youtube and begin listening.
I loved the mood of this book: adventure, high energy, and at times a feeling of having gone down the rabbit hole. In one particularly memorable scene, William Masters throws a costume party, which is both like a trip to Wonderland, and yet it is eminently believable, that William might create just such a situation.
While I found all the characters believable, I particularly liked Mr. Carroll's depiction of Masters/ Mozart. It has been years since I watched Amadeus, but I remember that Mozart as being very much a child in a man's body. I found Tempo Rubato's depiction of Mozart more rounded and realistic, very much what I can believe a musical genius might have been, a man who reflects, although to a much greater degree of course, the people I have met in the world of music. He is not a child at all, very much a man, and with deeper thoughts and down moments that I don't remember from the Amadeus portrayal. But he has retained his sense of wonder, curiosity, daring, and adventure. He has a quick mind and a quick wit, he is lovable, and yet full of downfalls, which keep him very real.
The only thing I would mention that might be a downside for some readers is a few typos and formatting issues. I would gladly take those over a perfectly edited story with dull characters and poor plot, any day.
I found this a thoroughly enjoyable read, and I highly recommend it. It is available on kindle and in print, and would make a great gift for the reader or music-lover in your life.
In conclusion, Tempo Rubato is intriguing in what it tells us about Mozart: the letters he wrote, his sense of humor. It evidences strong research. I like the pacing of revealing more about the characters: Elisse starts as the seemingly perfect professor who has it all together, and moves to a real person with an intricate past. I love the descriptions of a piece of music: the oboe, bassoon, and piano playing tag. I liked the internal lives of the characters. Mr. Carroll writes vividly. As Elisse leans out her window, I can almost see, smell and hear the old city into which she is looking, where Mozart may once have walked. I enjoyed watching Elisse loosen up and come into her own as she takes on the adventure. As a musician, I loved having a novel about musicians and music. There aren't enough of them. I couldn't help but nod in agreement when one character's first response to catastrophe is to rescue his cello.