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The Song of Names

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Martin Simmonds’ father tells him, “Never trust a musician when he speaks about love.” The advice comes too late. Martin already loves Dovidl Rapoport, an eerily gifted Polish violin prodigy whose parents left him in the Simmonds’s care before they perished in the Holocaust. For a time the two boys are closer than brothers. But on the day he is to make his official debut, Dovidl disappears. Only 40 years later does Martin get his first clue about what happened to him.

In this ravishing novel of music and suspense, Norman Lebrecht unravels the strands of love, envy and exploitation that knot geniuses to their admirers. In doing so he also evokes the fragile bubble of Jewish life in prewar London; the fearful carnival of the Blitz, and the gray new world that emerged from its ashes. Bristling with ideas, lambent with feeling, The Song of Names is a masterful work of the imagination.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Nov 24, 2003 – In this highly entertaining and accomplished first novel by a well-known English journalist and music critic, two men who became friends as children in London during WWII are reunited after 40 years. In 1939, nine-year-old Martin Simmonds meets Dovidl Rapoport, a violin prodigy the same age. Martin's father is a music impresario, and when Dovidl is sent by his Polish parents to study in England, he offers the boy lodging in his own home. Dovidl and Martin quickly become best friends. Dovidl's parents perish in the Holocaust; then, in 1951, Dovidl his name changed to the more palatable Eli is about to embark on a career as a concert virtuoso when he disappears on the day of his debut. Martin becomes obsessed with his friend's disappearance, and after decades of searching finally finds him in a dreary town in the north of England. Lebrecht's deep knowledge of music, his insights and his verbal inventiveness enliven the book (describing two awkward professors, he says they "stand out like frayed cuffs on a funeral suit"). However, the novel drags in the middle with the backstory of the two boys living through the blitz; this is material that has been presented elsewhere and in greater depth. Also, there's no real mystery in unraveling either the location or identity of Rapoport. Simmonds's supposedly epic quest ("I am consumed by thoughts of finding him") is over in less than two days, and it's a letdown for the reader not to be able to sift through tantalizing clues. These shortcomings aside, this is a confidently written and engaging first novel by a talented writer.
The Song of Names
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  • $7.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Historical
  • Published: Feb 10, 2004
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 320 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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