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The Conductor Hardcover – 1 Jul 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Head of Zeus (1 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 190880002X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908800022
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 2.5 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 591,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

'[An] up-all-night page-turner... conveying the extraordinary life-saving properties of music, and hope' Observer.

'An extraordinary period of history brought into proximity by a daring novelist... Superbly imagined and brilliantly realised' Lloyd Jones.

'Deserves to be mentioned alongside Jane Smiley, Andrea Levy and Rose Tremai' Sunday Herald.

'Extraordinary ... a symphony on the power of love - the love of music, home, family, city... A triumph on every level' New Zealand Herald.

About the Author

Sarah Quigley is a New Zealand-born novelist, poet and critic. She has a D.Phil. in Literature from the University of Oxford, and has won several awards for her writing. Since winning the Creative New Zealand Berlin Writers Residency in 2000, Quigley has been based in Berlin.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Susie B TOP 50 REVIEWER on 10 July 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Sarah Quigley's 'The Conductor' is a rather remarkable novel, combining fact with fiction, set during the siege of Leningrad which begins in 1941. The story follows three main characters: the composer, Shostakovich, the conductor, Karl Eliasberg, and a fictional character, a musician, Nikolai Nikolayev. As Nazi troops surround the city of Leningrad with the intention of bombarding and then starving the city into submission, many of the cultural elite is evacuated, but Shostakovich decides to stay and fight by using his own brand of courage and musical genius. In the midst of the Nazi aerial and artillery attacks, he uses this genius in the composition of the 'Leningrad Symphony', a defiant and haunting new piece, which will be relayed by loudspeakers to the front line to lift the spirits and to harden the determination of the citizens of Leningrad.

The conductor of the symphony is Karl Eliasberg, a driven individual who manages to create an orchestra out of the musicians who have been able to survive despite the starvation and the terrible conditions imposed upon them. During one of the coldest winters ever, whilst the death toll rises, the musicians struggle to cope with week after week of rehearsals, barely strong enough to hold their instruments, some dropping to the floor through hunger and exhaustion. As time goes on they, and we, begin to wonder whether these brave musicians will actually survive to see the day of the concert.

This is a challenging story to tell, but Sarah Quigley has researched her subject well and through some wonderful writing has created a remarkable story of a city that is brought to its knees but will not surrender.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Penny Waugh on 2 Sept. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have read other books about the Siege of Leningrad and I won't say enjoyed them, such tragedy is not enjoyable, but I was impressed by them. What drew me to this book was the music. Shostakovich, Eliasberg and the tattered, starving, supposedly second rate Radio orchestra came alive for me, together with their families and friends and it was both painful and exhilarating to follow their progress from the early days of the Siege up until the performance of the Leningrad Symphony.
I agree with another reviewer that the sufferings of the city's general population seem to be viewed at a distance, but the lives of the main characters moved me intensely and I loved the music. I cannot see it as strange that the father of a missing daughter should not be prepared to give up her precious cello for a couple of tins of beans, or that Shostakovich put his composing of music before his family life. These people were artists and in the end it brought out the best in them. I felt for all of them and I loved this book. It is not overburdened with description and I feel it is all the better for that.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 Sept. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a very moving and memorable novel, which begins in the Spring of 1941 with rumours of war with Germany and ends during the siege of Leningrad. The book involves many characters, including Shostakovich, ignoring warnings and trying to get his Seventh Symphony on paper, his friend Nikolai and his beloved daughter Sonya and Karl Illyich Eliasberg, the conductor of the title. Eliasberg conducts the rather second rate Radio Orchestra, while the conductor Mravinsky and the Philharmonic are Shostakovich's chosen musicians. Yet, as war comes closer, much of the musical elite of Leningrad are evacuated and Eliasberg finds himself left to conduct the "cultural backbone" of the city.

It is hard not to emphasise with Eliasberg, who is finally given the chance to achieve greatness under impossible odds. When he finally writes, "orchestra can no longer work" in the official logbook, it seems that his musical life is over. Then the orchestra is ordered to reform and perform the Seventh Symmphony to raise morale. Yet half the musicians are dead and the rest starving. Profoundly moving and wonderfully realised, this is a very well written and interesting book. If you want to know more about the real life events the novel is based on you might enjoy the forthcoming Leningrad Symphony.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. Moore VINE VOICE on 6 Nov. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this book unforgettable, It is sad, happy and horrifying. The tale of a would be conductor, who though mediocre finally ended up conducting the world premiere of Shostakovitch's famous War Symphony in the middle of the siege of Leningrad, to be broadcast to the world, his orchestra vastly diminished by starvation and death. But even so, they triumphed.
This is a book that will make you cry, because of the terrible suffering, caused mainly by the Nazi's as well as Stalin and his henchmen, whose attitude was to let Leningrad die. Because Stalin had murdered all his generals in a pre-war purge.There were none left at this time to actually direct the war except a megalomaniac. It is difficult to know just who was the worst, Stalin or Hitler, each trying to annihilate Leningrad one by ceaseless bombing and shelling, the other by depriving its citizens food, heat, medicines and shelter But this really is a novel well worth reading. I do hope that you will buy this book or Kindle it as I did. You really won't regret it.
Ros.
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