Book review: The Gustav Sonata

WHETHER she’s writing about life during the Restoration, family dramas in the south of France or the plight of eastern European immigrants, Rose Tremain is a consummate storyteller.

At the core of her finely crafted tales are seemingly unremarkable characters whose inner lives throw a subtle light on the way human beings think and feel.

In The Gustav Sonata, two boys forge a lifelong friendship in post-war Switzerland.

They’re very different.

Gustav spends his harsh childhood trying to win the love of his emotionally stunted mother.

Talented musician Anton is the much-loved only child of a Jewish family.

The counterpoint to their evolving relationship is the history of Switzerland’s conduct during World War Two.

There are few great dramas here, just a moving study of human emotions that’s full of compassion for even its most unappealing characters.

The Gustav Sonata

Rose Tremain

Chatto & Windus, €21.50; ebook, €12.65


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