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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dissonance, by Lisa Lenard-Cook

  LibraryThing.com Early Reviewer's Book

The dissonance found in 20th century music is the direct result of a world at variance with itself. Over an extended period of time the discord reveals itself in the arts.

One way modern composers have chosen to address the increased
fragmentation of life in the twentieth century is to create a more
fragmented music.” (p. 77)

In her recently re-issued novella, Dissonance, Lenard-Cook elaborates on this theme by focusing on the irony (although irony is not a direct theme, it is nonetheless inherent within the stories context) experienced during the Holocaust when the elite Nazi's jailed artists at the Terezin Concentration Camp for their entertainment. Jews were not valued enough to be allowed to work, go to school, or even live, yet could play beautiful chamber and symphonic music for Nazi's before being shipped off to their death at Auschwitz, if they lived long enough to make it there.

Never being able to fathom the degree to which man can manifest his prejudices, Jewish musicians continued to compose concert music while at Terezin. In essence, they had hope for a future tomorrow when they could share their creations. After the war, in the later part of the century, manuscripts that were saved by the few remaining musicians and their families, were collected, produced, and published in a series of moving CD's - Terezin Music Anthology.

Lenard-Cook's exposition is intricately composed. She creates a series of parallel themes intrinsic to the development of her story. For example: music and physics, harmony and dissonance, prejudice and impartiality; and likewise between characters: Hana and Anna - two musicians separated by a generation, but connected by Anna's mother, also a musician - fathers and husbands, mothers and daughters.

Someone once suggested that music sounds the way emotions
feel, that music reveals the hidden patterns of our inner lives in
the same way that mathematics reveals the outer, physical world.” (p. 63)

These relationships are central to the book's plot and thematic structures.

The author's writing is erudite, she has researched her subject matter and translated it with sensitivity. Her style and narrative are at times eloquent while at other times tedious. She has difficulty arriving at the main point of her story. The reader becomes frustrated following her digressions. Once Lenard-Cook reaches her peak conflict, it is anti-climatic because it does not match the scope of the intended novel. Much of the resolution does not seem plausible. The denouement is academic and the central structure is marginalized. It is a major flaw in an otherwise well conceived novel.

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