AUTHORS AT THE MOOSE
WELL READ MOOSE, COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho
• Each will have 10-15 minutes to introduce themselves and their books and read a small excerpt. • Q&A session, book signing, and open disc...
WELL READ MOOSE, COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho
THE VIOLIN THIEF awarded the (5 star) Gold Badge
"A complex and involved story that exudes realism and history, and in part may actually be based on real life events and occurrences. ”
"A fabulous and believable story that centers around a Stradivarius, the ‘ultimate musical instrument’. The story reveals what such an object means to different people and how they try to maintain possession as if their being the owner automatically awards them the power of playing music as no one else possibly can. Engrossing and well written, this book will pull you into the interwoven lives of its vivid characters, infecting you with their passions. I highly recommend it.”
The Violin Thief: A Curious Tale of Lost & Found
by Genie Higbee
book review by Priscilla Estes
RECOMMENDED by the US Review
"Higbee’s prose evokes the works of Isabel Allende, Alice Hoffman, Gabriel Garcia Marques, Olga Tokarczuk, and Khaled Hosseini in a manner both adults and young adults can appreciate."
"Young Douglas’ runaway imagination is a growing problem. He believes the rogue violin communicates with him across time and space."
"This magical story begins in 1941 in Elizabethtown, New York, where a haunting violin melody slices the starry night and mingles with the smoke from a burning farmhouse, a temporary refuge for Basque immigrants. Now homeless, the colorful, gypsy-like band departs, accidentally leaving behind the violin, which miraculously survives the fire.
An unusual young orphan named Douglas finds the instrument near the smoldering remains. Although Douglas is mute by choice, he has an uncanny capacity for listening, especially to the language of water, trees, and wind. In fact, he hears music in every sound: the rustle of garments, the slide of shadows, the pound of hail, an ice cream truck, an engine’s stammer, and the gurgle of a percolator. Perhaps not surprisingly, the boy and the violin converse together—she silently and he out loud.
This miracle of speech delights Hester Smythe, who rescued Douglas as a baby and generously turned an inherited lodging into a home for him and three of her distantly related, impoverished young relatives. With a unique and delightful cast of live-in characters, this inn is not a typical children’s home in the scenic Adirondacks. A wise, kindly Chinese cook, his Swedish wife, a Russian dancer, and three spirited playmates enliven Smythe Home.
Hester soon arranges violin lessons for Douglas with Professor Stoya and his wife, local music instructors with grandiose ambitions. Stoya, an ungenerous character, requires Douglas’ violin as payment, promising to return it if the boy becomes a virtuoso. Stoya knows the violin, named Magic Muriel by Douglas, is special—almost as special as Stoya’s Performance Violin, which he lends parsimoniously to students, including his son, Willi, the bully.
The Performance Violin functions as a type of “sorting hat” for those familiar with the world of Harry Potter, giving an “honest reflection of each player’s skill and soul,” in the words of Magic Muriel. So begins a remarkable sixteen-year-long saga of a sensitive, special boy who faces myriad psychological, spiritual, musical, emotional, and physical obstacles on a journey toward maturity.
Higbee, an artist whose violinist father played a rare 1822 D’Espine violin, masterfully harmonizes the historical and the fictional in this bildungsroman of magic realism. Especially helpful is the introductory list of “historical” and “fictional” elements. A “historical elements” addendum amplifies the sense that the real world of violins and violinists is as strange as the one she portrays in close to 500 pages.
The author successfully animates the intriguing and complicated history of the violin world with equally fascinating and complex fictional characters. For example, the novelized Douglas plays marbles with the real-life violin prodigy Michael Rabin, who lives in the real-life Lilacs, a cottage the Rabin family rented in Elizabethtown. The made-up Stoya surrenders his dream of starting a famous music school when real-life Ivan Galamian (who taught Itzhak Perlman and Michael Rabin, among others) forms the actual Meadowmount School of Music in upstate New York in 1944. The famed cellist Gregor Piatigorsky (called by Galamian “the greatest string player of all time”) befriends Stoya in the real Windy Cliff, a Tudor castle in the Adirondacks, where the actual Piatigorsky lived. Touches like these abound and will thrill the lover of historical fiction, magic realism, and music.
Poetic language mimics the beauty of the musical world and Douglas’ outsized existence. Hearts flap “like laundry in the wind” and “bounce like a marionette on strings.” A forest fire “becomes a fence of sharp orange tongues.” The sentence “White staccatos of light hit the asphalt like stabs of anticipation” describes a hail storm. Nature is a harbinger of moods and foretells the future, both a Cassandra and a Pollyanna of the Adirondacks. Higbee’s prose evokes the works of Isabel Allende, Alice Hoffman, Gabriel Garcia Marques, Olga Tokarczuk, and Khaled Hosseini in a manner both adults and young adults can appreciate.
The book imparts mystery and poses a few, too. Will Douglas find his mother, discover a worthy music teacher, be reunited with Magic Muriel and discover her true identity, and be lucky in love? Will he atone for his sins and be restored? Will the accompanying cast of characters likewise find their answers? Will the missing 1720s red violin from Cremona, Italy, be found? Will the grace of music light the darkness? So many matters are there to be resolved.
Higbee’s ending draws the strings together in an unexpected way that is both physical and mystical and also singularly apt. The author’s delightful, captivating, and unusual coming-of-age story set in the scenic Adirondacks in the violin’s musically fertile era of the 1940s and 1950s more than fulfills her goal of realistically portraying nonfictional individuals. Her use of magic realism to do so shows enviable mastery. The planned sequels in the series will undoubtedly be eagerly anticipated."
RECOMMENDED by the US Review
TITLE: THE VIOLIN THIEF, A Curious Tale of Lost & Found
AUTHOR: Genie Higbee
RATING: 5 (!!) stars (out of 5)
"THE VIOLIN THIEF is a beautifully-written, distinct novel that blends an interesting plot, vivid characterization, and thought-provoking prose into a delightful story about a young boy and his love for music."
"When six-year-old Douglas discovers a violin in the remnants of a fire, he is infatuated by its intricacies and rare beauty. He can’t wait to learn how to play it, but people in his life have other plans for the instrument, causing uncompromising devastation and heartbreak for him.
Six-year-old Douglas Tryzyna lives at the Smythe Home in Elizabethtown, New York. Placed on their doorstep as an infant, he has not uttered a word since his arrival. When he finds a violin in the aftermath of a fire where itinerant gypsies had camped, he says his first word—“mine.” It doesn’t take long for Douglas to develop a communication system and subsequent deep emotional bond with the violin, who tells him its name is 253-1. Not understanding Douglas’ unusual fetish with the instrument, Hester Smythe hides it from him, at which time Douglas becomes ill with grief. Eventually, his passion for music exceeds all other emotions.
Genie Higbee's THE VIOLIN THIEF story takes readers through the next fourteen years of Douglas’ life—a life filled with heartache over the elusive violin as it gets into the hands of people who don’t always have his best interest at heart. Douglas has an innate musical talent that helps him brave the rough times, and two music masters fight over having him as a student. While the violin remains out of his reach, communication with it continues. They understand each other, and he learns from the violin’s wisdom. Higbee portrays people, places, events, thoughts, feelings, and situations through the skillful use of description. Her well-chosen words and artful ordering of them capture each moment in vivid detail and create pictures that are easy to envision. Crucial to the flow of the narrative, the story unfolds with pacing appropriate for each scene—fast when needed to speed things up and slower when description or back story is required or when breathers are advantageous. By her masterful ability to “show rather than tell,” Higbee evokes a powerful range of emotions from scenes, dialogue, body language, and the protagonist’s multi-layered internal thoughts.
Those who read THE VIOLIN THIEF will be transported into a world of intense feelings caused by love, loss, determination, and devotion. Douglas’ journey—the book’s plot—is complicated, and Higbee’s deep understanding of human emotions and what motivates people to do what they do is commendable. The manner in which plot and character are intricately woven, combined with how internal and external conflict work together, make THE VIOLIN THIEF a remarkable story."
•Do the historical realities (1930s-1950s /Berlin/Elizabethtown, NY) add credibility to the imaginary elements of the story? For example: the missing Red Mendelssohn Violin of Stradivari, Split Rock Falls in the Adirondacks, Galamian, Piatigorsky, Michael Rabin and Bertine, Meadowmount School of Music, Hindemith and his wife Gertrud.
•Gateau tells Douglas:
“What you choose to hold precious in your heart can never be taken from you. Gather the best that each of those five women offered you. You are luckier than most sons.”
What were the gifts of each mother?
Sister Eder (Hester Smythe)
Sister Peace (Tatiana Usolka)
Mrs. Piano Teacher (Frieda Stoya)
Lulu (Narcisse Louise Boulez)
•In what way did any mother figure fail him?
•Are there several mother figures in your life?
•How is Katarina Guarneri (who finished Magic Muriel 1744-49) important in the novel?
Is she the unsung heroine?
•With Michael Rabin the story brings to light the realities of being a prodigy. How were Douglas and Willi’s musical experiences different or the same?
•Discuss the fathering/teaching styles of Stoya, Wing, and Ciazzo.
•How do you experience Violette as a child, as a teenager, as young woman?
•What different models of family did you see in the story?
•What was Douglas’ healing realization about himself and Sister Peace?
Why are the lies we tell ourselves the most painful?
•Sister Peace voices one of the repeated themes in the novel. “Broken heart and joy like mates on a journey.” Lermontov says it this way “Why cannot joy stand alone? Always to be accompanied by sadness, loss, grief, regret, pain?” What can we say of this in the characters’ lives. In our own?
•Do you find other memorable wisdoms, lessons, or contemplations in the reading?
•Gateau says: “There are individuals in this world who are so finely tuned that their sensitivities attract danger. Each is rare, a unique creation in the universe. By over-reaching such ones are often broken. Some may be restored. That is my work. This is our work.”
Discuss the purposeful work of Gateau, Berok, Noemi, and Oliver in Chodenzia. How did Douglas benefit?
•Recent scientific research on the brain explains what most cultures have utilized: Music is a powerful spiritual and physical force. What are your experiences with Music?
•Does this novel remind you of any others?
With themes and or style: coming of age, obsession, atonement, kindness, forgiveness,
asking suspension of disbelief, with unexpected formatting, lyrical prose?
LISTEN ON SPOTIFY
Basque music ~Fiesta Bihotzean
Ilan Reichtman~Gypsy Nocturne
J. S. Bach~Prelude in C Major
Bach~ Prelude, Suite No. 1 in G
J. S. Bach~Minuet in G
Liszt~En RêveFranz Wohlfahrt~EtudeClementi~Sonata in B flat MajorHandel~Sonata in A Major, No. 1 Weiniawski~Concerto in D Minor
Bizet~ L’Arlesienne Suite
J. S. Bach~Partita in B Minor -Sarabande & Bourrée
Turkey in the Straw
Vaughan Williams ~ Lark Ascending
Borodin~String Quartet No. 2
Ravel~String Quartet in F major, 2nd Movement
Seitz~Concerto No. 2, 3rd Movement
J. S. Bach~Violin Partita No. 1 BWV 1002
Hungarian Folk Songs
Dvorak~Slavonic Dance No. 2 in E Minor
Bela Bartók~ Romanian Folk Dances Sz56
Ravel~( Quartet )
Liszt~Hungarian Rhapsodies, Czardas, Lullabies
Kreisler~Liebesfreud” (“Love’s Joy”), Liebesleid” (Love’s Sorrow), “Schön Rosmarin” (“Lovely Rosemary”)
Chopin~Berceuse Opus 57 D Flat Major
Brahms~D Minor Sonata
J. S. Bach~Concerto for Two Violins
Hanon~Virtuoso Pianist “Exercise No. 13,”
Bartok~Romanian Folk Dance
Brahms~Academic Festival Overture
The Aurora Borealis as encountered by Douglas and Sister Peace.