‘Jessica Duchen's debut novel is captivating, imaginative and fascinating. As a musician and a mother, I recognized many of the scenarios and found the questions that were posed very poignant, both from a musical and personal perspective. The pace builds powerfully to a dramatic and ultimately very moving conclusion. Completely gripping!’
(Tasmin Little on RITES OF SPRING )
'Adam and Sasha appear to have the perfect life - good jobs, a nice home, money and three perfect children. But as their marriage begins to unravel, their ballet-crazy daughter starts staving herself - and her parents are too preoccupied to notice. A haunting, heartbreaking novel.'
on RITES OF SPRING )
'A sensitive and thought-provoking novel that will resonate all the more for those with musical leanings.'
(Femke Colborne, MUSO
on RITES OF SPRING )
'Duchen skilfully balances the conventions of the genre with the authority of a writer who really knows her subject. ALICIA's GIFT is a wonderful read. But make sure you keep the Kleenex handy when you tackle it.'
on Alicia's Gift
'This is a very well written study of the problem of being and having a child prodigy.... it's a gripping read and it's very easy to get caught up in the excitement of wanting Alicia to succeed... I enjoyed this book a lot'
on Alicia's Gift
'I suggest you give Hungarian Dances a whirl.'
(South China Morning Post
From the Author
First, huge thanks to everyone who has written to me with such kind and enthusiastic words about this novel!
Of all my books to date, this one is the closest to my heart. Hungary, with its endlessly rich history, culture, music and larger-than-life personalities, became a veritable obsession while I was writing HUNGARIAN DANCES. During this intense voyage of discovery, I made so many new friends and learned so much that this little green volume truly changed my life.
HUNGARIAN DANCES is a family story on a grand scale, spanning some 80 years and interweaving the past and the present. I hope that independent readers and book clubs alike will enjoy the conflict between the generations as well as the closeness of 91-year-old Mimi, and her granddaughter, Karina. I've tried to offer some honest reflections about life as a first-generation Brit - something I know plenty about, being one myself; and, though I didn't want to thump everyone over the head with it, a strong, idealistic anti-racist message hums along in the background to the entire novel.
The stories of Karina and Mimi run side by side as Karina reawakens her own identity by uncovering her grandmother's long-buried secrets. Karina is in her thirties, torn between her love for her family and her need for self-fulfilment, not to mention her passion for another man. Mimi, born into a dynasty of Hungarian Gypsy musicians in 1915, was adopted by a philanthropic doctor, taken away from her Roma family and transformed into a classical virtuoso - but at terrible personal cost. Her tale, and that of the two great loves of her life, ranges from 1920s Budapest to 1940s New York and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
I am immensely grateful to my friend Philippe Graffin, the distinguished French violinist, who has recorded a beautiful CD especially to complement the novel. Also entitled HUNGARIAN DANCES, it features pieces by Brahms, Debussy, Bartók, Dohnányi and others, many of which appear in the story and all of which reflect the confluence experienced by Mimi and Karina of classical music and Gypsy violin-playing. We hope very much that you will find an extra element of enjoyment in reading the book and listening to its music together.
I was so sorry to finish writing this book that I decided to create a website to provide further information about it, Philippe's CD and Hungary. I've included some of the Hungarian recipes that Karina and her family cook, links to useful tourist information sites, some Youtube footage of the 1956 Revolution and much more, and you can sample extracts of the music there too.The book is now available in Hungarian translation (published by Kossuth) and Romanian and Dutch editions will follow in 2009.
All this is a long way of saying that I hope from the bottom of my heart that you will love this book, and its music, as much as I do myself! Thank you.
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