Book Talk: Trio: A Novel Biography of the Schumanns and Brahms by Boman Desai
A flawless blend of history and storytelling is Boman Desai's Trio: A Novel Biography of the Schumanns and Brahms. Trio is a story of passion, insanity, suicide, revolution, politics, and war steeped in beautiful music. This book captures the life of Robert and Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms. It is a story about an immense and all-consuming love.
Clara met Robert at a very young age. At sixteen, she was utterly in love despite the disapproval of her father. Coming from a prominent family, she was expected to marry up just like all the well-off young women of her time. But, Clara matched her father's iron will and began a life with Robert, who did not quite measure up to her family's standards.
Robert was a brilliant composer. However, he suffered from mental illness that was almost as consuming as his passion for music or Clara. He attempted suicide and was committed to an asylum where he spent the short remainder of his life.
While Robert was committed, Johannes Brahms a dear friend, was deeply involved in the couple's lives. He became the go-between, delivering messages to and fro as the doctors did not allow Clara to see his husband because they believed she would trigger his illness further. Brahms fell in love with the brilliant and strong-willed Clara.
People know Robert and Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms through their music, but their lives were much more complex and fraught with passion, requited and unrequited. All this as the competitive and impassioned music history, war, and revolution was unfolding around them.
When we read about history, it is filled with names, dates, and details of important events that transpired. Sometimes, a book such as Desai's Trio comes along to give life to the people who made such history. Through his historical research, the letters that were exchanged by the three characters, and the dialogues that he has written out of them, Desai brings his readers into the intimate intricacies of his muses' lives.
Reviews and What Readers Say
" This substantial “novel biography” ( the author’s term) is a masterpiece of its genre. It was born of wide and deep research, it has great narrative flow, vivid dialogue and a detailed sense of time and place. It benefits from an epistolary thread that binds the chapters. It proves that, in the right hands, historic fiction need not be any less valid than academic speculation - simply not as pretentious. Boman Desai has great honesty and is restrained in his self-esteem. In a lengthy and conversational, afterword to this “hybrid” book he writes:“ I wrote what I knew, I researched what I did not know, and I imagined what I could not research...nothing happens in the book that might not have happened historically.” The book features the Schumann / Brahms ménage, and especially- after Robert’s death - the elusive and mercurial relationship between Clara and Brahms. It contrasts its qualities with Brahms predilection for mercantile sex, and surmises about the early-life, experience-based origins of Brahms’ psychosexuality."
— Paul Ricchi, Amazon Reader's Review
" Music lovers of Robert and Clara Schumann, and Johannes Brahms will enjoy Mr. Desai's novel. It is worth a read, and a re-read."
—Garlic Man, Amazon Reader's Review
" I'd written a review (which I didn't see listed) a few days ago when I gave it four stars but thinking about it some more, it deserves five. There are idiosyncrasies in the spelling of names and places and sometimes the language is a little stilted, but overall, it is an amazing achievement and a book I will definitely read again. Obviously, the writer did a great deal of homework AND digested it before he wrote the book. excellent!!"
—La BugZ, Amazon Reader's Review
" While you could say this book is a niche interest and 700 pages long, don't be put off. If you enjoy historical novels, or biography and have even just a light interest in classical music, I would definitely recommend it. The characters very quickly became absorbing and the author gave them real depth and complexity. It kept me turning the pages until the very end to see how their interwoven lives played out. It has also made me want to listen to the musical pieces that were described so evocatively and given context."
—Liz Fallon, Amazon Reader's Review
Review by Krystle Manis
Disclosure: This article is a personal endorsement of the professional reviewer. The BookWalker is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
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Boman Desai was born and raised in Bombay (now Mumbai) but has lived his adult life in Chicago. After studying architecture and philosophy and getting degrees in psychology and English, he was set to become a market analyst when a chance encounter with Sir Edmund Hillary, his earliest hero, brought him back to his vocation: writing novels. He took a number of part-time jobs ranging from bartending to auditing to teaching to find time to write. He got his first break when an elegant elderly woman personally submitted a number of his stories to the editor in chief of Debonair Magazine in Bombay. The stories were all published, but the woman disappeared, and her identity remains a mystery to this day. He has published fiction and nonfiction in the US, UK, and India. His work has won awards from the Illinois Arts Council, Stand Magazine, Dana, Noemi, War Poems, and New Millennium (among others). He has taught fiction at Truman College, Roosevelt University, and the University of Southern Maine.