In this debut novel, rich in the beauty of music, a young piano prodigy struggles to understand Beethoven and her own life. At a conservatory in Baltimore, Sylvia studies piano with the venerable Cornelius Toft, whose disapproval of her efforts to play Beethoven’s Opus 111 seem somehow related to her inability to grow up, both as an artist and a human being.
In Daughters of Song, Paula Huston weaves together Sylvia’s story with the stories of Toft’s other students: the famous Moon Ja Koh, a world-class concert pianist who is all too aware of the detrimental effects of success on her personal life; Peter, classically trained yet drawn more to the beat of jazz; Jan, who loves the romantic music of Franz Liszt; and Brandon, handsome, accomplished, and Toft’s favorite. Sylvia is sustained by her genuine passion for the piano, the counsel of teacher Katerina Haupt, and the aggravating but loyal companionship of her Ukrainian roommate, Marushka.
“This is to go overboard for Daughters of Song, which has done for music conservatory students what Augusta Tucker did a half century ago for medical students. The Peabody Conservatory, aged 128, is never named, but Daughters of Song is far and away the best book yet about life there.”
(The Baltimore Sun)
“Huston has created in Sylvia as winning a heroine as American fiction has seen for years. Huston’s prose is rich, sensuous alive. In a hard-boiled age, she dares to write openly about the emotions and persuasively renders the hothouse atmosphere of the conservatory.”
(The Los Angeles Times)
“A risky, ambitious work about the relationship of art to life. Huston obviously knows her way around the world of music. Her writing can make the musically illiterate among her readers almost believe they can read the notes on the page.”
(Salt Lake Tribune)
“An extraordinary first novel. The miracle of Daughters is that the intricate discussions of music, whether technical or philosophical, as well as the psychological insights into musicians, ring true.”
(Santa Barbara News Press)
“A stunning debut, filled with distinctive characters.”