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The Gustav Sonata
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The Gustav Sonata


What is the difference between friendship and love? Or between neutrality and commitment? Gustav Perle grows up in a small town in 'neutral' Switzerland, where the horrors of the Second World War seem a distant echo. But Gustav's father has mysteriously died, and his adored mother Emilie is strangely cold and indifferent to him. Gustav's childhood is spent in lonely isolation, his only toy a tin train with painted passengers staring blankly from the carriage windows.

As time goes on, an intense friendship with a boy of his own age, Anton Zwiebel, begins to define Gustav's life. Jewish and mercurial, a talented pianist tortured by nerves when he has to play in public, Anton fails to understand how deeply and irrevocably his life and Gustav's are entwined.

Fierce, astringent, profoundly tender, Rose Tremain’s beautifully orchestrated novel asks the question, what does it do to a person, or to a country, to pursue an eternal quest for neutrality, and self-mastery, while all life's hopes and passions continually press upon the borders and beat upon the gate.

Title:The Gustav Sonata
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:241 pages
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    The Gustav Sonata Reviews

  • Hannah Greendale
    Mar 18, 2017

    Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.Gustav Perle lives with his mother in a small town in Switzerland. While the horrors of the Second World War ar...

  • Diane S ?
    Mar 28, 2016

    A beautifully written, albeit melancholy story about the friendship of two men who first met when they were young boys. Gustav and Anton first meet in kindergarten when Anton arrives crying pitifully....

  • Elyse
    Aug 19, 2016

    "He thought that if he had been some other boy, he would have begun crying or at least whimpering by now, but he wasn't: he was Gustav Perle. He was going to 'master himself' --for the sake of his Mut...

  • Doug H
    Jul 31, 2016

    This is only the third novel by Rose Tremain that I’ve read, but I’m already tempted to add her name to my short list of favorite writers. One of the things that I most admire about her as an auth...

  • PorshaJo
    May 13, 2017

    This one was quite different from what I expected, but in a good way. The Gustav Sonata is told from three different perspectives. Part one where Gustav is a small child and he meets his life-long fri...

  • Iris P
    May 16, 2017

    The Gustav SonataWhat I most appreciate about The Gustav Sonata is how Rose Tremain tells a story that is at times cruel and morally complex and accomplishes this with surprising clarity and elegant s...

  • helen the bookowl
    Feb 11, 2017

    This is a really beautiful and fragile story about Gustav and Anton who become best friends as five-year-olds. It's a story about their friendship, but it's also a story about the twists and turns lif...

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    Apr 27, 2017

    This is not a World War II novel. Some of it is set during World War II but that isn't what the book is about. I'm saying this because I came across several negative reviews that harped on this fact a...

  • Julie
    Jan 08, 2017

    Rose Tremain amazes me. I haven't always enjoyed her narratives, but I never ceased to be awed by the breadth and depth of her subject matter, the fearlessness of her approach, and the sheer elegance ...

  • Hugh
    May 07, 2017

    Tremain chose to set her latest novel in Switzerland, exploring the complicity that enabled the country to remain neutral during World War Two. There is plenty of music in this book, which is a novel ...