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Music & Silence [Paperback]

Rose Tremain
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 July 2000

In the year 1629, a young English lutenist named Peter Claire arrives at the Danish Court to join King Christian IV's Royal Orchestra. From the moment when he realises that the musicians perform in a freezing cellar underneath the royal apartments, Peter Claire understands that he's come to a place where the opposing states of light and dark, good and evil, are waging war to the death.

Designated the King's 'Angel' because of his good looks, he finds himself falling in love with the young woman who is the companion of the King's adulterous and estranged wife, Kirsten. With his loyalties fatally divided between duty and passion, how can Peter Claire find the path that will realise his hopes and save his soul?

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (6 July 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099268558
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099268550
  • Product Dimensions: 3.1 x 12.9 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,470 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rose Tremain's novels have won many prizes including: the Whitbread Novel of the Year (Music and Silence); the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Prix Femina Etranger (Sacred Country); the Sunday Express Book of the Year, the Angel Literary Award and shortlisted for the Booker Prize (Restoration) and a Giles Cooper Award (for her radio play, Temporary Shelter). Her novel The Colour, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, and selected for the Daily Mail Reading Club promotion. In June 2007 Rose was made a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Rose Tremain deserves a Hallelujah chorus dedicated just to her: a decade after the appearance of Restoration--and with a range of stunning novels and short story collections before and after it--now comes her glorious and enthralling Music and Silence.

This treasure house of delights, as haunting as it is pleasurable, teems with characters, real and imagined; with intrigues, searches, betrayals, in vivid scene after scene which loop in and out, back and forth, like overlapping and repeated chords.

King Christian IV of Denmark is, in the year of 1630, living in a limbo of fear and rage for his life, his country's ruin, and his wife's not-so-secret adultery. He consoles himself with the weaving of impossible dreams and with music--played by his Royal Orchestra in the freezing cellar at Rosenborg while he listens in his cosy Vinterstue above. Music, he hopes, will create the sublime order he craves. Kirsten, his devious wife, is a continual maker of Beautiful Plans to outwit, avenge, feed her greed. And she detests music.

The awkward duty of assuaging the King's miseries falls to his English lutenist, Peter Claire, his "Angel", whilst Emilia Tilsen must bend to Kirsten's every whim. Yet what Peter and Emilia seek is each other, largely in silence both necessary and cruelly imposed. Other stories, each of them full of fabulous and often joyful and witty invention, intertwine through the Royal Court's machinations: the King's mother who hoards her gold in secret; his boyhood friend, Bror, a tormenting memory; the villagers who suffer and wait in the frozen Numedal; Emilia's mute young brother Marcus. And in Ireland, Johnnie O'Fingal, once a kind father and husband, is driven mad by hearing music of utter divinity in his dreams, but which neither he nor Peter Claire can make earthbound. His devoted but spirited wife has distracted herself with Claire, but now finds herself rejected. Palpable with desire and longing, this extraordinary narrative builds its grand themes in storytelling that is both profound and wonderfully satisfying. --Ruth Petrie --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"The best thing from Denmark since Hamlet." (John Julius Norwich)

"A magnificent novel... a brilliant book which will repay many readings" (The Times)

"She is the best historical novelist of her generation. She evokes the past with sensuality, wit and superb sleights of hand... The plot is unforgettable tapestry of Eros and of art" (A. N. Wilson)

"Tremain's achievement in Music & Silence is extraordinary ... A narrative as funny as it is compelling" (Daily Telegraph)

"Tremain weaves her web of stories with great visual flair and emotional acuity: This is a fabulous cacophony of passion and despair" (Metro)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A splendid recreation of 17th century Denmark 29 Oct 2000
Tremain has created a masterpiece of historical fiction -- fascinating, informative, richly-detailed. She moves deftly between subplots and sites (Scandinavia and England).
Among the many characters both real and fictitious, Tremain enlivens one of the 17th century's most striking monarchs: Christian IV of Denmark, called the Sun King for the dazzling sweep of his ambitions. While reading this book I visited his tomb, outside Copenhagen. Music & Silence was the perfect introduction to the king and his world.
It's worth noting that readers in Denmark, more familiar with this history than I, have loved this book.
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59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully lyrical masterpiece. 15 Aug 2001
By A Customer
In Music and Silence, Rose Tremain lyrically reproduces the rich fabric of seventeenth century Denmark as though she was there. As in Restoration, Tremain has succeeded in breathing the past into the book and still infusing the story, that of the court of Christian XV, with a contemporary elegance. The novel is narrated by four different narrators, all of whom are inextricably linked together. We see Kirsten Munk, the King's consort, who is adulterous, vicious and scheming. We also see one of her women, Emilia Tilsen, who is a meek young girl come to serve Kirsten Munk as one of her Women. The pivotal character, and indeed narrator, is perhaps Peter Clare, the lutenist and also the protagonist, who has been appointed the Kings' Angel, because of his good looks. Peter Clare falls in love with Emilia, but their love is soon stopped by the wicked Kirsten, who is banished from court by her husband, as he finally sees her for the evil that she is, thus deciding that if she is not to have any joy in her life, then neither can Emilia. Tremain directs the story with an eye to detail and wit and transports the reader to seventeenth century Denmark, where the air is crisp and smells of spiced wines. Without doubt, Music and Silence is one of the most beautiful, intricateley woven stories I have ever read.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb; an exciting historical novel 14 Aug 2000
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the first Rose Tremain book that I've read; how I was impressed. 'Music and Silence' is a reminder of just how good the historical novel can be. Everything is here: a range of leading players all trapped in history or circumstance; old ghosts and secrets everywhere; madness, pomposity and all manner of outrageousness; magical realism in the Danish forests. Superbly crafted and easy to read - in the best sense of the phrase.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An imaginative entry into a little known world 26 Aug 2007
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
The book opens in 1629, when Peter Claire, a young English lutenist, arrives to take up his post as a musician at the court of King Christian IV of Denmark. It then moves in a series of flashbacks and forward movements from this moment, both for Claire and for the King; for Kirsten Munk, the King's morganatic second wife; for Emilia Tilsen, one of Kirsten's young maid-servants; for the Countess O'Fingle in Ireland, whose husband is tortured unto madness by a tune he once heard and cannot recapture; for Marcus, Emilia's waif-like little brother; for Johann, her father in Jutland; and for the Rev. James Claire, Peter's father in Suffolk. For each of these characters Rose Tremain has created a distinctive style and voice, each a pleasure to read. She has great descriptive powers of people, place, and atmosphere. The personalities also, and the shifting relationships between them, are very distinctive: there is the huge, restless and tormented king, strangely confiding in Peter Claire; a truly monstrous regiment of women: the termagant and adulterous Kirsten, twenty-two years the King's junior, ruthlessly selfish and bullying all her attendants except for Emilia; Ellen Marsvin, Kirsten's mother; Sofia, the Queen Mother; and Magdalena, Marcus' wicked stepmother. Almost all the characters in the book are unhappy, and an air of sadness suffuses the whole novel.

Christian IV and Kirsten are certainly historical figures, as is the King's later mistress, Vibeke Kruse. Many times one feels sure that descriptions of the Danish court are based on historical research, as probably are the superstitious beliefs held by some of the characters.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Music & Silence is a thoroughly good read.
As each perspective is presented, Tremain's characters fly on to the pages with a force and impact which can not be ignored and certainly not forgotten.
Each character is defiantly individual yet each one throws a cascade of light on to the psyche and situation of fellow protagonists.
The portrayal of King Christian and Kirsten anchors the novel.
King Christian, with his denouncement of 'shoddiness' proceeds to rule the country in a pretty shoddy manner. His ideal of a powerful Denmark and a loving Kirsten are crushed as he learns 'acceptance', the harshest and most important lesson that life teaches.
The bawdy, earthy Kirsten is highly entertaining, as is her obsession with unconventional and colorful sex, providing a rich counterpoise to the rather dreary Emilia. Kirsten is reminiscent of the early Melville but she seems completely bereft of soul (it being stolen at birth according to Danish myth).
Music & Silence perhaps lacks the shape and careful crafting of Restoration but throughout Tremain offers us a plethora of human truths and images on to which we can grasp, as the story line pounds on so magnificently.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Historically Interesting
i read this when visiting Copenhagen, although a novel, it brought the city's past to life and reinforced what I was I was finding out when visiting the sights.
Published 2 months ago by H Dickie
4.0 out of 5 stars 17th century Denmark re-imagined
I came to this after reading Restoration and Merivel and was hoping for more of the same. In many ways this is just what this novel delivered - historical re-imagination, a... Read more
Published 3 months ago by William Jordan
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story
One of my favourite books by this author. Interesting characters and great scene setting. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it.
Published 3 months ago by Jerry
4.0 out of 5 stars Music and Silence by Rose Tremain
I enjoyed this book, it was a different format to other novels but once I got used to it I found it easy to read. The main characters are well portrayed. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Annette Dunk
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant book
This is one of the best books I've read. Rose Tremain writes with humour and a deep understanding of human nature. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Chris B
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Period Story Telling
I read a lot of books and some really make a lasting impression on me - this is certainly one of those books. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mr Jinks' Dad
5.0 out of 5 stars beautifully written
Since reading "Merivel" I have bought three more Rose Tremain books. Music and Silence was the second of her's that i read. It's an excellent read, witty and sensuous. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Claire
4.0 out of 5 stars A novel set in 17th century Denmark
Music & Silence by Rose Tremain, Chatto and Windus, 1999, 462 ff

The story is that of the court of King Christian IV of Denmark in the 17th century. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Dr. H. A. Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent reading book.
I enjoyed reading this book because of the way it was written. It had many characters telling their own stories but the result was a complete picture of what was happening. Read more
Published 12 months ago by SHIRLEY GORDON
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
A really beautiful story with lots of interesting historical detail. Very gripping to read. I could not put ti down.
Published 13 months ago by Anne Carroll
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