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Clara [Paperback]

Janice Galloway
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
RRP: 18.99
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Book Description

1 Feb 2004
With "some of the greatest words ever written on thwarted love since Romeo and Juliet" (The Times, London), Clara reignites, from between the lines of history, the great love of Robert and Clara Schumann. This impassioned novel gives voice to Clara Wieck Schumann, one of the most celebrated pianists of the nineteenth century, who today is best remembered not for her music but for her marriage. "How often you must purchase my songs with invisibility and silence, little Clara," says Robert, and, for Clara, the price of his love is dear. Shrouded in alternate layers of music and silence, the Schumann union was anything but a lullaby, marked by her valiant struggle for self-expression and his tortuous descent into madness. With Clara, a deeply moving fugue of love, solitude, and artistic creation, Janice Galloway "has taken a melodic line and scored it for an orchestra" (The New York Times Book Review). Source: Simon & Schuster Last Updated: 12/29/2003 Last Sent to NetRead: 12/27/2008 Author Bio Janice Galloway's Clara was named the 2002 Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year. Galloway is the author of the story collections Blood and Where You Find It and the novel The Trick Is to Keep Breathing, winner of the 1990 MIND/Allen Lane Book of the Year Award, and Foreign Parts, which won the 1994 McVitie's Prize. In 1994 she also won the E. M. Forster Award, presented by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Glasgow, Scotland.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (1 Feb 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743238532
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743238533
  • Product Dimensions: 3.3 x 13.8 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,218,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Janice Galloway is one author of three novels, three short story collections, two memoir/true novels and several extended literary works with sculptor Anne Bevan. She collaborates with a variety of artists from different disciplines including composer Sally Beamish, Sculptor Anne Bevan and Typographer James McNaught and often guests on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4. Prizes and accolades include the MIND/Alan Lane Award, McVitie's Prize, The American Academy of Arts and Letters EM Forster Award, the Saltire Society Book of the Year and Scottish Book of the Year and has twice been listed as a New York Times Book of the Year. ALL MADE UP, her second volume of "anti-memoir", a radio 4 Book of the Week, won both the SMIT Book of the Year 2012 and the Creative Scotland Literature Award 2012. A new novel, set in 18th century Italy, is her most recent project.

For more information about this author, you can access her web site at

Product Description

Amazon Review

Clara's grappling with the rigidities of historical character and its conjuring of a totally alien milieu--the German music scene of the mid-19th century--are all the more impressive given that Galloway's previous prize-winning novels, The Trick is to Keep Breathing and Foreign Parts, were much less ambitious in scope, dealing with contemporary lives, of a young Scottish drama teacher and two women on a driving holiday in France respectively. But Galloway's regular readers will recognise in Clara many of the features of the earlier novels and of her short story collections Blood and Where you Find It-- show a deep concern with psychology, especially psychology pushed to its extremes, and a deliberate eschewing of sentiment even when the narrative screams out for it, underpinned by a sly humour.

Reaching her prime before the dawn of recorded sound, Clara Schumann is now sadly only known by report as the perfect champion of her husband Robert's music, an acclaimed virtuoso pianist who had her own international career in European concert halls in the latter half of the 19th century. The bare bones of her biography however hint at hidden depths: the mother, Marianne Tromlitz, who left her husband and daughter for another man; the father, Friedrich Wieck, who nurtured her career single-mindedly; the marriage, violently opposed by her father, to Robert Schumann, who soon fell into depression, ending his short life in an asylum. Janice Galloway has taken full advantage of the raw materials of the first half of this extraordinary saga, to produce a rich and compelling fictional life.

In this novel there's also a deep understanding of the social politics of Clara's background, most impressively done through her father's social climbing, hidden behind an apparently classless artistry. Galloway renders all this in an indulgent, exquisitely limpid prose: the end result is an outstanding novel, the most ambitious and most impressive of her career to date. --Alan Stewart --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Some of the greatest words ever written on thwarted love since Romeo and Juliet" (The Times)

"A powerful novel which brings two troubled and brilliant people back to life" (Sunday Telegraph)

"A razor-sharp blade of light... This is fiction's raising of Lazarus, miraculous, touched with wonder, grace and utter, steadfast belief in the life being resurrected... A work of intense, unflinching passion and conviction, written with Galloway's heart's blood" (The Times)

"Janice Galloway's exciting, vibrant third novel proves a virtuoso piece of storytelling...this obvious Booker contender is as compelling as the tormented players and music that inspired it" (Eileen Battersby Irish Times)

"You read Clara and you catch the music of another mind, and wherever it comes from Janice Galloway plays the notes to what sounds very much like perfection. This is a virtuoso performance" (Scotsman) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning piece of writing 19 Aug 2002
By A Customer
Janice Galloway's other works have all been wonderfully written but this book is breathtaking. Perhaps it is the scale of the task, capturing the internal life of a musician, muse, wife and mother from so very long ago that makes the piece so wonderfully impressive. Clara's love is so beautifully rendered - a madness of her own, almost - that it is at the same time thrilling and terrifying. The best thing I have read in a very very long time.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I don't have much to add to the two previous reviews except to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book and appreciate how much hard work and research must have gone into its making. The author is especially successful at recreating the details of nineteenth century life and in emphasising the difficulties faced by Clara as a professional woman trying to make her way in an age when most women never went out to work except as domestic servants. References to the cultural milieu and musical personalities of the day tend to be a little elliptical and readers not already familiar with the Schumanns' story and nineteenth century musical history might find the narrative hard to follow in places. Otherwise I highly recommend this book.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
With single-minded determination, born from years of mental discipline, thirty-seven-year-old Clara Wieck Schumann, dressed in black, took the arm of her friend, Johannes Brahms, and was escorted to the piano, where she would begin a new phase of her life, as a widow and the sole support of the eight children she bore composer Robert Schumann. Clara was well schooled for her life of self-denial and duty. A child prodigy as a pianist, she had been controlled by her domineering father, and she had had to sue him so that she could marry Robert Schumann, an unstable composer whose own demons exerted control over her life.
Robert Schumann's instability, according to the author, began at a very early age. As a young man, he believed that he was inhabited by two people, Florestan and Eusebius, and he often alternated marathon composing sessions (once producing 27 pages of music in a single day) with times in which he could find no inspiration at all. He had to have silence when he was working, and he was inconsistent in his behavior, often blaming Clara for small infractions over which she had no control. She had no life of her own. Despite the arrival of eight babies, Clara continued to have concerts regularly, as she was the primary bread-winner in the family. Unappreciated and unrecognized by the public, Robert became frustrated and depressed, eventually admitting himself to an asylum, where he died in 1856, at age 46.
The ill-starred love story of Clara and Robert Schumann is as romantic as the music of Schumann and his contemporaries, but Galloway keeps this novel on a factual level, as much as possible. There are no flights of fancy here, no imaginative soaring into the stratosphere of romance, and no attempt to recreate the passionate feeling of their love or of their music.
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4.0 out of 5 stars If music be the food of love, play on 21 July 2014
By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Janice Galloway's Clara, a biography as fiction of Clara Schumann, born Clara Wieck, pianist and composer, who married Robert Schumann and bore him 8 children, was something of a struggle, for many right reasons, but also, perhaps, a victim of its attempt to write from both an objective perspective, and from a within the mind of both Robert and Clara. Robert Schumann suffered episodes of extreme mental disorder, most possibly bipolar disorder, as his diagnosis at the time recorded periods of extreme and prolonged `melancholia' followed by periodic attacks of `exaltation'. This means that writing `within his mind' becomes remarkably confusing, distressing and jumbled at times.

Galloway has written very well `within the mind of breakdown' before, in her mordant, painful and often very funny The Trick is to Keep Breathing - but this worked in part because the central character of that book had a degree of wit about herself.

Here, the tenor of the book as a whole, despite some fine passionate intensity about music itself, as the major players - Clara, her music teacher father, Schumann, Chopin, Listz, Mendelssohn, Brahms, are all musicians and or composers - is overwhelmingly bleak and full of despair.

I am very admiring of Galloway's writing, most particularly because of her ability to leaven the tragic with a lightness of touch, and, in her own biographical books, a certain cool stoicism.
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