Nominated by:

San Diego Public Library, USA

Publisher of nominated edition:

W.W. Norton, USA

The Gustav Sonata

Rose Tremain      

2018 Longlist

A poignant tale about the enduring friendship between two men under the shadow of the Second World War.

Gustav Perle grows up in a small town in Switzerland, where the horrors of the Second World War seem only a distant echo. An only child, he lives alone with Emilie, the mother he adores but who treats him with bitter severity. He begins an intense friendship with a Jewish boy his age, talented and mercurial Anton Zweibel, a budding concert pianist. The novel follows Gustav’s family, tracing the roots of his mother’s anti-Semitism and its impact on her son and his beloved friend. Moving backward to the war years and the painful repercussions of an act of conscience, and forward through the lives and careers of the two men, one who becomes a hotel owner, the other a concert pianist, The Gustav Sonata explores the passionate love of childhood friendship as it is lost, transformed, and regained over a lifetime. It is a powerful and deeply moving addition to the beloved oeuvre of one of our greatest contemporary novelists.

About the author

Rose Tremain’s prize-winning books, including The Road Home, The Gustav Sonata, Merivel, and The American Lover, have been published in thirty countries. Chancellor of the University of East Anglia, Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and member of the Royal Society of Literature, she lives in Norfolk, England with the biographer Richard Holmes.

(from publisher)

Librarian’s comments

Set in post-World War 2 Switzerland, this novel in three parts covers the lifetime relationship between lonely Gustav, whose bitter mother gives him little attention and the brilliant and mercurial Anton, whose wealthy Jewish family have lavished him with love. The story brilliantly portrays the interplay between neutrality and commitment.

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