The Song of Hartgrove Hall: A Novel. Natasha Solomons. Penguin Random House, LLC. December 2015. 400 pp. ISBN#: 9780147517593.
Harry Fox-Talbot spends most of his time reliving the years since 1946 when he first met the love of his life, the love who has died a year ago and whom Fox finds it extraordinarily difficult to live without. Fox’s passion is music but since Edie died he has no incentive to compose, play or even poorly sing anything. In fact Fox is obviously deeply depressed and stuck in his grieving.
This looming melancholy for the reader ends as Fox shares his memories. In 1946 their home at Hartgrove Hall, was falling apart and was in such deep financial straits that initially the family decided it must be sold. However, Fox and his brothers decide they will unite to restore Hartgrove Hall and the accompanying farm to its original splendor. Into this almost impossibly challenging situation comes Edie, a famous wartime singer. Fox instantly falls in love with her but her romance seems to grow for Jack. But Fox is quite oblivious for whom Edie’s attentions are really pining. Thus he escapes Hartgrove Hall, abandoning his brothers’ project and telling himself that sending money is an equivalent way of helping them to restore their home. While away he pursues his passion of composing and having orchestras perform the folk tradition oral stories common to the English countryside. For loving your brother’s fiancé is definitely forbidden. Later that reality will change to a need for forgiveness, but the real question is who was responsible for breaking Jack’s heart?
As a mourning widower, Fox has a new project when he discovers that his grandson, Robin, is a four year-old prodigy musical genius. He can sit down and play absolutely anything on a piano without looking at musical notation. As the narrator describes these astonishing scenes, the reader can almost hear the music to the point where one is mesmerized by the talent and personality of this young boy and how Fox nurtures it, albeit through many challenging and dire situations. For Fox is helping Robin to become a decent human being and not just a spoiled brat prodigy.
Fox also takes us back to the intricacies of his development as a composer and the genius behind those who conduct and present those works of beautiful musical art.
The Song of Hartgrove Hall is one of the best novels this reviewer has read. It highlights both the greatness and smallness of human beings, also introducing the reader to the difficult and glorious moments of composers and musicians, as well as singers.
Highly recommended historical fiction that is absolutely delightful reading!