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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptionally wonderful book
I rate this as one of the best books I have ever read, and I'm not young, nor an infrequent reader. It affected me deeply and took me to places in myself that are rarely touched.

The surface appearance is of a novel about racism and the difficulties it creates for those of mixed race. Even here, where one might expect little that is new, I feel that fresh...
Published on 20 July 2006 by Jon Freeman

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Research, Depressing Story
An impressively researched but deeply depressing story about a mixed-race family in New York during and after World War II. David, a Jewish research scientist, flees from his native Germany to New York. There he meets Delia, an African-American singer whose career has been severely damaged by racism - she is refused a place at a leading conservatoire because of not being...
Published on 23 Jan 2012 by Kate Hopkins


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptionally wonderful book, 20 July 2006
By 
Jon Freeman "jon2910" (Hampshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Time Of Our Singing (Paperback)
I rate this as one of the best books I have ever read, and I'm not young, nor an infrequent reader. It affected me deeply and took me to places in myself that are rarely touched.

The surface appearance is of a novel about racism and the difficulties it creates for those of mixed race. Even here, where one might expect little that is new, I feel that fresh insights and perspectives were offered. But underneath that surface is an examination of the very roots and resonances of identity, the relationship of an individual or group with artistic experience and cultural heritage, and a deep examination of what America is (as distinct from what it pretends or sometimes aspires to be) and of the threads of racial, cultural and religious arrogance which continue to inhabit American thinking.

It is a demanding read and one which probably benefits from a few years of life experience. There is much allusion to classical music, which while it does not require knowledge does demand patience with one's lack of it and the same might be said of the occasional scientific references. It is long book, but in my view not remotely "saggy" as one reviewer describes it. Its richness derives in part from taking the time to examine many facets and present the story (although narrated by one voice) from several character's perspectives.

I am not black, but would think this is a "must-read" for anyone who is, and perhaps for anyone who is of any form of non-white or mixed heritage (whether racially or culturally). Though maybe I shouldn't have said that, because this is fundamentally about being human and finding or recognising one's identity, and about what identity might mean to others. So just a must-read for human beings then.

I should not close without mentioning that the writing itself is quite beautiful, filled with poetic crystallised expressions and that the understandings of music and science are woven in with illumination and meaning. I am astonished that Richard Powers is not more widely acclaimed and that I discovered this book only by accident. I will be reading more of him.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harmony and Disharmony, 2 Mar 2004
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This review is from: Time Of Our Singing (Paperback)
A fabulous, almost overwhelmingly inventive piece of writing, rich in metaphors and ideas. One of the best, and most interesting books I have read in a long time. This is much more accessible and lyrical than DeLilo, and more inventive in its use of language, without being obscure. Powers tells the story well of the two brothers trying to defend themselves against the disharmony of the world, and of the relationships within their family, with the harmony of their music. Also, an interesting document of the American Civil Rights movement.
Reservations - sometimes the writing is almost too dense. I found myself wishing from time to time for a simple description rather than clever metaphors and allusions. And can anyone please tell me why it is that all (and I think it is nearly ALL! - DeLilo' Underworld, Atwood's Oryx and Crake, Roth's Sabbath's Theatre, for example, among my recent reading) modern American authors seem unable to write a story that starts at one point in time and follows a more or less straight line towards its conclusion, rather than constantly looping back upon itself? I guess it makes for a more interesting story line.
All in all though, a must read book. Brilliant.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read & shocking reminder of America's recent past, 18 Oct 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Time Of Our Singing (Paperback)
A thoroughly enjoyable and gripping read with a brilliant a superb structure that interweaves the story of different generations easily. However, the tales of late 60's racism in America is shocking for someone spun the tales of American multi-culturism and freedom.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The First Great Novel of the 21st Century, 22 July 2004
By 
J A C Corbett (Blackheath, London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Time Of Our Singing (Paperback)
A dazzling, dense, ingeniously constructed and beautifully written novel, The Time of Our Singing is, perhaps, the first truly great novel of the new century.
It tells the story of the black Philadelphian Daley family and the marriage of their daughter to a white Jewish emigre in the 1940s and charts the fortunes of their life together, and, most crucially their children. Set against the backdrop of the emerging civil rights movement, it is never judgemental in tone or an overtly political book, but it conveys its message with beauty and subtlety.
The prose is quite simply beautiful. Though the text is dense, and the book long, Powers never descends into the sort of vainglorious obscurity of other American novellists, such as Don DeLillo. Everything has a purpose, nothing - in more than 600 pages - is there unnecesserily. I normally guzzle down books in a day or so, but found myself savouring this one, almost hoping that it would never end. Alas, it did, but now at least I can turn my attention to Powers' other works.
I can't state my admiration for this book highly enough, but buy it now, and you can tell your grandchildren that you read a classic within a couple of years of its publication. It's that good.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest books I've ever read..., 6 Jan 2011
By 
C. Ball (Derbyshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Time Of Our Singing (Paperback)
I've had this book for a good few years now and I've never before been able to get into it. I've picked it up, read a few pages, put it down again and found something else. And now I wish I'd stayed with it, now I wish I'd read it years ago so I could have read it again and again by now, because...what a book. What a book.

On a purely surface level it's about two mixed-race brothers born in the late 1940s, children to a German Jewish father and a black mother. But it's so much more than that. It's about identity and birthright, about time and music, racism and relativity and what it means to be human. It's been described as 'one of the greatest American novels ever written' and I couldn't agree more. It's incredible.

The language alone would make it all worthwhile - this man has a gift with words and imagery that rivals Pat Conroy, and the latter is one of my favourite authors. And it's packed full of scientific metaphors, references to art and history and music, many of which I have to confess went sailing over my head but didn't lessen my enjoyment one iota.

It's not an undemanding read but oh, it's worth it. Every page is a treasure. I was only sorry to come to the end of it, and I know it's a book I'll return to.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical brilliance, 31 Mar 2008
By 
M. C. Morison (Athens) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Time Of Our Singing (Paperback)
The very structure of this book reveals the complexity of thought behind this poignant, perceptive and riveting account of a family of extraordinary talent, seen through the eyes of Joseph, a child of the baby-boomer years. For someone, like myself, whose grasp of race issues has been syncopated by current history as shown in TV and news reports, the account is a revelation. The totality of the racial divide is experienced through the impossible marriage, consummated just before the Second World War, of David a refugee (white) German Jewish man to Delia, a young (black) musician. The impossible universe thus created by this love in an unlovely world, is explored by Powers. The marriage has been born out of a passion for music and the making of music is the substance of much of this amazing narrative.
Powers has a facility with language that is a great rarity. Again and again he conjures up the experience of wonderful music being created. This never palls and becomes a leitmotif throughout the tale. He manages to explore and reveal complexity of character and motive, in a way that is both unflinching and compassionate.
This is a wonderful read. A book to ponder for months and years. It sustains its power right up to the very end - as you would expect for a book that is as much about the mystery of time as it is about the nature of music.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indescribably good, 26 Oct 2003
By 
R. F. Kift "Roy Kift" (Castrop-Rauxel) - See all my reviews
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I've read and admired the likes of Philip Roth, John Irving and Don Delillo but I have to say, on this form, Powers beats the lot. Why is this writer so comparatively unknown? Get it, read it and wallow in pure pleasure at the story, the language, the ideas and the magnificent composition. It's a masterpiece.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars MORE VALLEYS NEEDED?, 22 Mar 2007
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This review is from: Time Of Our Singing (Paperback)
It's very difficult not to be impressed with this novel. Depth, breadth, some highly affecting writing about the emotional power of music, a complex,satisfying structure, trenchant analysis of race and US social problems. Here comes the but. There's a passage where Powers talks about a composer having too many peaks and not enough valleys. That's often what I felt about this book. In fact it's often what I feel about a lot of American novels. Every sentence is so....overstuffed. Every action is so vital. Every comment so pregnant. You long for a character to have a cup of tea or pick their nose or say something pointless. Like, you know, real people do. Roth is the same. These powerful, brilliant characters with their historic lives on a Polaris trajectory. At least Pynchon is often funny and ridiculous and throwaway. But these other guys (and they are all guys aren't they) - all seem to be hell bent on out muscling eachother. Shock and awe, baby. Strangely it makes me think less of Powers' critique of America....his book (and I haven't read the others) is so AMERICAN...big, flashy, self important, overpowering. I shouldn't carp. We need serious, thought provoking writers. America definitely needs them. It's just I sometimes wonder if they need their hearing checked.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A staggering work of genius..., 22 Aug 2003
By 
Bob Zeidler (Charlton, MA United States) - See all my reviews
...that is heartbreaking in its beauty and its tragedy. And its hope.
I thought for a long time regarding how best to describe this book in one sentence. In this, I felt as if I had been put in the predicament experienced by a New York Times book reviewer who, two decades ago, in describing a favorite work of literature, wrote "...I find myself nervous, to a degree I don't recall in my past as a reviewer, about failing the work, inadequately describing its brilliance." And, with apologies to another author whose title words I paraphrase above, this is how I choose to describe this powerful new novel.
The overarching theme of the story is race, and what it is like to be black in America (even if that "blackness" is barely apparent and issues of class and culture are largely absent). It is the story of three siblings – two brothers of nearly the same age and a younger sister – flung apart repeatedly by the centripetal force of race and its effect on family and career in the latter half of the 20th century, only to be brought back together time and again by the pressure of events, both familial and racial. Powers uses the subthemes of classical music and contemporary physics to compelling effect in weaving together both the narrative of the siblings (and their family) and the greater story of "being black in America." In the process, he cuts across time, flashing backwards and forwards in the narrative while telling both the story of the siblings and the history of race relations from their parents' generation to the near-present. The latter is dealt with in a series of brilliant set pieces covering every race-relations event of significance over this period, from Marian Anderson's Lincoln Memorial concert of 1939, in defiance of the D.A.R., to the Million Man March more than half-century later; in the process, the story's protagonists appear, "Zelig-like," at the periphery of these events.
Told more "linearly" than Powers's style of cutting back and forth in time, the story is about an interracial couple (he, a German Jewish emigre physicist recently escaped from Nazi Germany, she, a talented black singer without opportunity for a professional career due to color) who choose to rear these siblings "colorless" and home-schooled in their formative years (including intensive attention to music and singing). The choice – largely that of the father – can be read as a well-intentioned but ultimately failing effort to increase racial "entropy," a term from physics that Powers doesn't use explicitely but nonetheless seems to suggest.
The subtheme of music propels the narrative forward. Jonah – the older son – is destined for great things as a singer; he has a voice of such beauty and purity that one like it comes along, at best, once per generation. Joseph – the younger son (by a year), and the story's narrator – is not the talent that Jonah is, but he is the main support backbone – an "enabler" – for Jonah, as well as his accompanist, over much of the tale. Ruth – the sister, younger by a few years – might well have been the greatest of the three in terms of talent, but an early tragic event takes her in an entirely different direction.
Powers uses the physics subtheme to entirely different effect. The nature of time (in the context of the role it plays in Einstein's Theory of Relativity) is brought to into question on the discontinuities in the narrative and the near-repetition of specific events, as if time has the ability to fold back on itself, even repeat itself from an "event standpoint." In one of the better set pieces in the book, Powers places the father and the two boys in The Cloisters (at the northern tip of Manhattan) when they are quite young. This is their first experience at hearing medieval music, and the experience will eventually fold back on itself – decades later – in a way that I found astonishing yet logical.
It needs to be said, too, that that this is not just the story of Jonah, Joseph and Ruth. Or simply the story of "being black in America." As Powers's story unfolds, we see that events have a way of taking their toll on the extended family at whose core are these siblings. Late in the book, there is a passage regarding the maternal grandparents, the male figure of whom had long been estranged from his grandsons due to a severe falling out between himself and their father. When notice of the grandfather's death is passed on to Joseph from his uncle, we find that this estrangement had taken its toll on the grandparents' relationship as well; only at death is a tragic secret revealed.
In a supreme irony, the folding back of time, at the end, finds the gansta rap son of Ruth, grandson of the physicist whose "experiment in racial entropy" gives the story its initial impetus, repeating the path that his grandfather had a half-century before. He listens to Louis Farrakhan, and concludes – with a wisdom far beyond his years, and totally contrary to his demeanor – that Farrakhan's message is all wrong: The arrow of time really flows in only one direction, and that direction is measured by the increase in entropy.
Powers – a polymath for sure – throws an awful lot at the reader, leaving it up to him to sort it all out. But at its best – and the "best" is there page after page – Powers's prose simply leaps off the page. Nowhere is this better than when he describes music and the effect that a perfect voice can have on the human heart and sensibilities. He writes so beautifully about music and the power of the human voice that the pages themselves literally sing.
This is not a book that can be adequately summarized in so few words. It is a great and IMPORTANT book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the best books I've ever read, 4 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Time Of Our Singing (Paperback)
This book is wonderful and Richard Powers is a very clever author.
His knowledge is truly amazing and he is a true polymath.
The story is thought provoking and I loved the twist in the tale, it was very unexpected.
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Time Of Our Singing
Time Of Our Singing by Richard Powers (Paperback - 5 Feb 2004)
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