Monday, 12 December 2016

Xmas Gifts and Music

 

Every year I do a series of Xmas entries on the blog, helped and encouraged by suggestions and recommendations from my lovely readers. You can see some of last year’s pictures in this entry, and find (endless!) more Xmas books via the tags at the bottom of the page.



While the Music Lasted by Kitty Barne


published 1943


 
While the Music lasted

[It is the end of 1938. Andy and Karen are newly-married musicians, short of money: Wanda is their rich patron]

They spent Christmas in Studio Two [where they lived] and celebrated it by copying out the parts of the now completed piano concerto; a most unnatural proceeding [her sister] Judy thought, when they might have been enjoying themselves in a family party in her house.

Karen, however, found it more exciting than any Christmas party…
Wanda had burst in on them just before Christmas, her Christmas spirit like the unattached thread from a spider, streaming from her ready to fasten on any object that presented itself and make a bridge down which presents could be hurled.

‘Always I give my musicians a present, the memory of me at Christmas, and what do I give you, my Andee? And the little Karen? That is what I came to ask.’

 
While the Music Lasted piano gift

[after some discussion Wanda says:] ‘then you shall have two pianos. I would have given you a Christmas tree with a bride and groom in silver figures like little birds in the branches, but now it shall be a piano.’ She was like an offended fairy.

commentary: I loved this book when I read it earlier this year: it’s the grown-up followup to a children’s book, She Shall Have Music, about Karen, a talented pianist. She has married a very modern young musician and they are living in poverty trying to make their names. But at the same time, war is coming, so the musical events are mixed in with political discussions, and the Munich agreement plays a large part in the story.

It makes for a particularly fascinating read, and the struggles and interests of starving artists, although familiar, are very well done. The romance between Andy and Karen is refreshingly free of artificial troubles and romcom tropes.

The top picture comes, appropriately enough, from the programmes of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the first half of the 20th century - they are available online and are strangely fascinating. It is obviously an advert, but seemed in the spirit of Wanda’s gift idea.

The other one is from the marvellous Sam Hood, this time from the Australian Maritime Museum.















12 comments:

  1. How interesting that this is an adult follow-up to a YA novel. I haven't heard of that being done - at least not often. It sounds like a really interesting look at life as war approached - a real layer of suspense there. And there's something timeless (is that the word?) about the struggling musical artist trying to make it. I can see why you enjoyed this.

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    1. It was a novel concept for me too, Margot, I don't think I'd ever come across it before either. And I loved both books as I'm sure you could tell. As you say, timeless.

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  2. Thanks for this. Had never heard of it before, but I re-read "We'll meet in England", also by Kitty Barne, recently having first read it in secondary school (https://the-bookhound.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/meeting-in-england.html), and enjoyed it. And being a musician too, this sounds like just my sort of book. What was the earlier novel about Karen called?

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    1. Oh I'm going to look for that one straight away! The earlier one was called She Shall Have Music, and I blogged on it here: http://clothesinbooks.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/theatrical-dramas-hard-working-children.html

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    2. ... and I have added the booktitle and link above, in case others are interested. Thanks!

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  3. I had no idea there was a sequel! Thank you so much, I loved that book.

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    1. Oh good, so glad, hope you will enjoy it. I very much did.

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  4. This is such a novel way of ringing in Yuletide, Moira. I haven't read any of the Xmas books you have featured so far, not even J.B. Priestley whose paperbacks are easily available in my neck of the woods. I must try and read at least one Xmas book or story this fortnight.

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    1. Yes do. And perhaps you could blog about celebrating Christmas in your country...

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  5. This is my favorite time period to read about. Lovely images, especially the second one.

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    1. No crime content, but the late 30s atmosphere is so well done. Glad you liked the pics...

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