Book Review: The Novel in the Viola by Natasha Solomons
The Novel in the Viola by Natasha Solomons
I loved Natasha Solomon’s debut novel, Mr Rosenblum’s List, but I have to confess I love her second book, The Novel in the Viola, even more. What a fabulous new writer! With the quality of her writing and her ability to weave a wonderful story, she is sure to have a long and successful career as a novelist. The Novel in the Viola centres around the character of Elsie, a nineteen-year-old Jewish woman, who is sent from bohemian Vienna to a country house on the Dorset coast in England by her parents in the late 1930s, swapping champagne and parties for a cap and apron. Naturally she hates her new life of servitude and misses her family terribly – her beautiful opera singer mother, Anna, her novelist father, Julian, and her sister Margot who is ready to depart to America with her new husband. With her pampered background she wrestles with the rules and regulations of her new life and is brought to a point of despair that only lifts when she meets the heir of the estate, Christopher Rivers, and his irreverent cheeky charm helps her find her place in this new damp and dreary world.
The novel easily moves between past and present and builds a rich tapestry of her family life that juxtaposes with her strange new existence. But as the novel progresses, it also hints at more ominous things happening at home, with her parents still waiting for their visas to the leave Vienna. A novel of loss and new beginnings, this is a beautifully written book, and Elsie is a wonderful, multi-faceted character who is easy to care for. As to the novel in the viola of the title? You’ll have to read to the very end to see the full significance – there is a twist that will surprise.