Time for another book review. When I heard about this one by Richard Harvell, I wasn’t sure I would like it…but I was wrong! I LOVED this book. The writing was beautiful…and the story was very unique and gripping. I am so tickled when a book surprises me like this did. From the very first sentence I was hooked.
“I grew up as the son of a man who could not possibly have been my father.”
Oh yeah! In just 17 words, Harvell grabbed my attention and taunted me with a mystery to solve! That’s talent…and I appreciate it! Remember the classic Star Wars quote where Darth Vader says, “Luke, I am your father!” and Luke screams “NO!!!!!” He probably thought that same line above…that Darth could not possibly have been his father. Sorry Luke.
But forget about Star Wars. This story doesn’t take place in outer space with asthmatic breathing fathers and light wielding sons. This tale takes place on earth in the 18th century in Switzerland and Austria. The main character is the son of a deaf woman who rings the earsplitting bells in her small Swiss village. The boy is thought to be deaf like his mother, but when it is discovered that he isn’t, he is thrown into the river to die so that he cannot expose the sins of his father. (This part is just like Darth throwing Luke off that tall tower thingy to die. Mean dads!)
The half-dead boy is fished out of the river downstream by two traveling monks named Nicolai and Remus. Nicolai determines to take care of the boy as best he can, despite Remus’s protests. Nicolai names him Moses (after the boy prophet fished out of the bulrushes of the Nile). I like to think of Nicolai as the Yoda figure (Sorry. The Star Wars theme is stuck in my head and I can’t get rid of it). The two monks take Moses to the Abbey of St. Gall where he discovers the joy of music and his own angelic voice (the Force. Sigh. I’ll stop now).
When his talent is discovered by the brilliant choirmaster, Ulrich, Moses’s life is changed forever. His gift becomes not only a blessing, but his curse. The twisted Ulrich, determined to preserve his brilliant pupil’s voice, has the young boy castrated. Yikes! (Men might not like this book; it might make them squirm. They might wish for Death Star annihilation before that!)
Back in this time period, men with high soprano voices were called Musicos. They would perform in choirs and the operas and were a hit with the ladies. I don’t know why, because that would kind of freak me out to hear a guy sing higher than a lady. But whatever! That’s why I live now and not back in the 1700’s. Whew!
The plot thickens because castration is an abomination in the Swiss Confederation. Moses must hide his shameful condition from his friends and even the girl he has grown to love. I could hardly put this book down once I started! Yes, it kidnapped me (my family hardly bats their eyes anymore when this happens. “Oh, grab the box of Captain Crunch. It looks like Mom won’t be making dinner tonight!”).
Here’s a great quote from Nicolai in the book.
“I’ve got a lot to lose. I love so many things. Too many, the abbot would say. Too much. Shed a little love, he’d suggest. Cure yourself of that sin. But that’s exactly what I’m afraid of, don’t you see? That’s exactly my biggest fear, what keeps me awake every night. What I fear is this: I’ll wake up the next morning and everything is just the same, the world is the world, but all the love I feel for it has vanished, and I realize that all along my love was only a disease — like small pox of the soul.” [Yoda would say, “A disease, my love was. Small pox of the soul…it was like.”]
Yowzers! If you haven’t read this yet, then throw it on your list of things to do! If you have spare time and want more to do, come on over and clean my toilet. I’ll keep you busy if you don’t have your own TO DO list. But really, I think you’ll be happier if you just read this book and pretend you have a long TO DO list of your own. No one likes cleaning toilets—even Musicos…or Yoda (well, maybe Yoda doesn’t mind. He could use the Force).