- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Head of Zeus; First Edition First Printing edition (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: 825,970 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Conductor Hardcover – 1 Jul 2012
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'[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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
At first, I felt that this book was going to be a slow burner, it was like looking in on a series of tableaux to set the scene on each of the characters and it rather lacked coherency and feeling. I didn't feel much sympathy towards the main characters, least of all Shostakovich who was a selfish, arrogant man who refused to evacuate his family in favour of staying put to fully live the experience in his composition. But as the story progresses, it is less about the composer and more about the Conductor (of the title), Karl Eliasberg - a rather ineffectual, unpopular little man who is the butt of a lot of jokes at the second-rate Radio Orchestra where he is the conductor. He idolises Shostakovich and wants to make himself known to him and is honoured when one evening Shostakovich plays to him part of the new symphony. Quigley's writing here is nothing short of brilliant as she is describing the composition as it comes to life. As Leningrad falls further into misery and deprivation so the story now picks up pace and I was now beginning to feel the pain of these people , most notably Nicolai, the Violinist who has evacuated his daughter to the East but has not heard from her after the train she was on supposedly had been bombed by the Nazis.Read more ›
A grim read. There is no holding back on the horrors endured - a city in ruins, each day more deaths, dismembered corpses proof how desperate the need for food. Until ordered away to comparative safety, Shostakovich had been one of those digging ditches, on rooftop fire duty at night. All the while in his mind images and impressions evolved into phrases and themes - his next major composition to pay tribute to Leningrad's resilience.
The occasional humour is welcome, as are genuinely tender moments. Some prove totally unexpected - even obnoxious oboist Alexander responsible for one of them. Eliasberg himself is an unlikely central character - he a cold fish, self-deprecating, ill at ease in company. All the more moving is what becomes of him - once, from within, the necessary strength can be found.
Fact and fiction are here skilfully combined to create a powerful depiction of terrible times. Disturbing thoughts are triggered by readers' knowledge such conditions are not confined to history. Communities remain under fire, with terrified inhabitants struggling to survive. The only difference no music is likely to immortalize their plight. Sarah Quigley's novel illuminates and deserves to be read.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a second reading of this book. I bought it again having seen the excellent programme on TV about the Lennigrad siege and Shostakovich symphony. Read morePublished 17 months ago by marion
Captures the atmosphere of Leningrad and build up to the siegePublished on 3 May 2015 by Amazon Customer
I really enjoyed this - a fictionalised account of the writing of Shostakovich's famous Leningrad Symphony. Read morePublished on 1 Sept. 2014 by Conor Dooley
A moving account through the eyes of musical survivors of one of the most terrible times in history, fascinating and descriptivePublished on 23 July 2014 by Deirdre
This beautifully written story, quiet and moving ,.realistically portraits a boy moving from a humble agricultural background to a world of learning. Read morePublished on 2 Dec. 2013 by Ann
This is a truly great book. Great as in the sense of good, inspirational, deeply moving yet unsentimental. Read morePublished on 8 Oct. 2013 by Tweedledum