Michael Endelman
February 20, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Song of Names

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Norman Lebrecht
genre
Fiction

We gave it a B+

Two insular worlds — classical music and Hasidic Judaism — are put under the microscope in this lively novel. Narrator Martin Simmonds lives in London with his uptight, class-conscious Jewish family, but his pedestrian childhood changes course in 1939 when Dovidl Rapoport, a refugee from Poland and a violin prodigy, moves in. Fast-forward to the present: Martin is now a Willy Loman-like loser, a sheet-music salesman stuck with a frosty marriage, a bad heart, and plenty of regrets. Lebrecht deftly unwraps Martin’s downward spiral — involving a mysterious disappearance and a religious awakening — with the calm and steady touch of a concert pianist.

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