The strangest detective story in the history of music – inspired by a true incident.
A world spiralling towards war. A composer descending into madness. And a devoted woman struggling to keep her faith in art and love against all the odds.
1933. Dabbling in the fashionable “Glass Game” – a Ouija board – the famous Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Arányi, one-time muse to composers such as Bartók, Ravel and Elgar, encounters a startling dilemma. A message arrives ostensibly from the spirit of the composer Robert Schumann, begging her to find and perform his long-suppressed violin concerto.
She tries to ignore it, wanting to concentrate instead on charity concerts. But against the background of the 1930s depression in London and the rise of the Nazis in Germany, a struggle ensues as the “spirit messengers” do not want her to forget.
The concerto turns out to be real, embargoed by Schumann’s family for fear that it betrayed his mental disintegration: it was his last full-scale work, written just before he suffered a nervous breakdown after which he spent the rest of his life in a mental hospital. It shares a theme with his Geistervariationen (Ghost Variations) for piano, a melody he believed had been dictated to him by the spirits of composers beyond the grave.
As rumours of its existence spread from London to Berlin, where the manuscript is held, Jelly embarks on an increasingly complex quest to find the concerto. When the Third Reich’s administration decides to unearth the work for reasons of its own, a race to perform it begins.
Though aided and abetted by a team of larger-than-life personalities – including her sister Adila Fachiri, the pianist Myra Hess, and a young music publisher who falls in love with her – Jelly finds herself confronting forces that threaten her own state of mind. Saving the concerto comes to mean saving herself.
In the ensuing psychodrama, the heroine, the concerto and the pre-war world stand on the brink, reaching together for one more chance of glory.
Jelly laid out the letters alphabetically in a two-row semi-circle on the kitchen table – which seemed the least formal, least frightening environment. Beside them she set in place an upended tumbler. In his basket by the back door, Cesar yawned and thumped his tail before going back to sleep, nose on paws.
She scrawled “yes” and “no” on pieces of paper ripped from a notebook, each in her huge, untutored hand. She had gone to school for eight days; each time, she’d cried so much that eventually her mother could stand it no longer, took pity and kept her home. After that, Jelly could – and did – play her violin to her heart’s content. Today she fitted about twelve words on to an average piece of letter paper.
They lit a sole candle; around it the rest of the room disappeared into the night, while an island of surreal creamy gold highlighted the whorls in the old wooden surface. Now this seemed a cavern fit for other-worldly activities. The two women sat opposite each other; Jelly tried to steady her hand, which was quivering a little with nerves.Read more...
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This book is now published. You can still pledge, but you won't get listed as a supporter in the back.
A copy of the ebook in all three DRM-free, standard formats (.epub, .mobi and PDF)
Ebook edition and your name in the list of patrons in the back of the ebook
Ebook edition and your name in list of Super Patrons in the front of the ebook
Limited edition giclée print of the cover art from Unbound's award winning designers, ebook edition and your name in the Super Patrons list in the front of the ebook.
Everything at Super Patron level plus access to a special Ghost Variations digital playlist curated by the author.
An invitation for 2 people to attend the launch party, plus everything at the Playlist level.
MUST BE BOOKED BY 31 JANUARY 2016. Join our group visit to the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s concert at the Royal Festival Hall on 6 February 2016 (7pm, or 5.45pm with pre-concert talk) including the Schumann Violin Concerto and enjoy an informal discussion with Jessica and fellow Ghost Variations Early Bird patrons after the performance.
(One ticket per pledge, travel not included) Also includes everything from the playlist level.
ONLY 9 AVAILABLE
Sponsor one of the novel’s characters and receive extra background material about him or her from the author, plus your name in a special list of Character Sponsors in the front of the ebook. Choose from Jelly d’Arányi, Adila Fachiri, Myra Hess, Donald Francis Tovey and Yehudi Menuhin. Plus everything at the launch party level.
A personal dedication from the author in the front of the ebook plus everything at the Launch Party level
Only one available
Personal illustrated lecture in your own home (or other venue if you have access to one). Jessica will present a talk with musical illustrations for you and your friends about Jelly d’Arányi and the Schumann Violin Concerto (you’ll have to cover travel expenses, and accommodation if outside London). Plus everything at the launch party level.