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Hungarian Dances by [Duchen, Jessica]
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Hungarian Dances Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Length: 400 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Review

'After having read Rites of Spring, I am now equally thrilled by Hungarian Dances. Jessica Duchen is a very gifted storyteller; her characters are sensitively portrayed. She has observed "Hungarianness" very well indeed. And her understanding of the tragedy and sufferings of the Gypsy people - that is not just history, but very much a problem of our time - gives this book an even more profound meaning.' (Andrs Schiff)

'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.' (Closer on RITES OF SPRING)

'The pages of Hungarian Dances just kept turning! Like all the best

novels, it asks unexpected and compelling questions. It's a book for

anyone with an interest in how history leaves its mark on people and how

they in turn come to live with its scars.'

(Martin Davies, author of The Conjuror's Bird)

'Highly recommended' (Classical Music Magazine)

'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.' (Music Teacher on Alicia's Gift)

''It really is difficult to put down . . . It's Duchen's compassionate human observations which carries her through . . .Those in the musical world will relish sentences such as 'orchestras are full of sheep eating shit'; those outside it will marvel at its fragility and volatility. And everyone will be encouraged to ponder just how far the search to 'find oneself' is selfish, unselfish or, impossibly and painfully, in a timeless dislocation somewhere between the two.' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Jessica Duchen writes about families, the arts and their sometimes devastating combination with such skill and passion that her books are unputdownable. It is very rarely that I find a new writer whose work I love so much.' (Katie Fforde)

'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' (Muso on Alicia's Gift)

'Like a stuffed palacsinta pancake, Duchen's novel of music and memory bulges with fruity treats...' (Independent)

'I suggest you give Hungarian Dances a whirl.' (South China Morning Post)

Book Description

The thoughtful and compelling issues-based third novel from an author who has already gained a loyal fanbase. HUNGARIAN DANCES is a love story, a mystery and a tale of extraordinary personal transformation.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1922 KB
  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (24 July 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0045OW4L0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #299,737 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Hungarian Dances is a marvellous, intelligent, thought-provoking meditation upon the human condition; it explores the themes of identity, whether national or sexual, of the possibilities of love, of betrayal, and of the deep meaning of music, whilst carrying you along on a beautifully-crafted story that is utterly absorbing. It may be a cliché to say "I couldn't put this book down", but in my case it is a quite literal statement of fact. I read it throughout the night despite having several urgent matters to attend to and desperately needing my sleep! (Warning: clear your diary before picking this up!)

This is a wonderfully-written book; nothing in the prose jarred, nothing was extraneous. Don't let the slightly girly cover put you off - this is seriously good literature. As a professional opera singer, I am used to hurling any books which mention classical music at the wall in irritation; this one, with its accurate portrayals of the frustrations, disappointments, and sublime joys of music-making, resonated strongly in my soul.

If you like your novels to make you think, without being overtly pushed to do so, this is not to be missed. Glorious!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this a most exciting and gratifying book for the plot as well as for its treatment of two passions of mine: music and Budapest. Jessica Duchen is well known as a writer on music and as a very successful novelist. She also has one of the best-run blogs on the net: you will find a lot about this book there, including photos of places in Budapest described in the book. You can also make the acquaintance of her cat Solti!
Like all good communicators, Jessica Duchen wears her learning lightly and writes in a limpid, flowing style which makes one want to keep reading. She manages to keep several plots going at once without ever losing the reader and always judges perfectly the right moment to move on so as to maintain suspense.
She has a vivid eye for detail and one easily empathizes with the characters: the scene in the run-down Budapest café where the gypsy father of Mimi, whom she wants to invite to her concert at the Liszt Academy, refuses furiously from the humiliation he feels at being dirty and unwashed and therefore unworthy of going to such a place is quite heartbreaking.
This book could be classed as "popular fiction", "a good read", "a real page-turner" but I think this would be to underestimate such a well-crafted and profound novel. Highly recommended. A paperback version is now available.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An in many ways excellent tale of a Hungarian emigre family of musicians living in London. Karina has given up her musical career to become the wife of a sweet but slightly dull English businessman, whose family also happen to be minor aristocracy. After a series of crises (her best friend is reported missing believed killed after a terrible train crash, her young son is sent off to prep school, her beloved grandmother Mimi's health begins to deteriorate) Karina meets by chance a fiery young violinist called Rohan, who encourages her back to music. The story of their growing intimacy is intertwined with Karina's attempts to discover more about her family's past and their lives in Hungary, and Mimi's memories of her childhood as a gypsy musician, her adolescence in Budapest, her experiences during World War II and the communist regime, and her turbulent relationships with two men: her gentle academic husband and her lover, a passionate French composer.

There's a lot in this book that is very enjoyable: the descriptions of Hungary, all the fascinating Hungarian history, the depictions of Karina's parents (I've certainly met some emigre musicians like them!) and the sections dealing with Karina's struggles to return to a musical career, and her realization that being with Rohan, obsessively devoted to his music, won't be easy. However, Duchen is trying a little too hard at times to write 'popular fiction': Mimi seems far less anguished about being torn between two men than most women would be, and Karina's husband and his family become caricatures of 'the passionless English' all too easily.
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Format: Paperback
This story gripped from the first page to the last. Although the central family in the story is Hungarian and musical, you don't need to be either to get totally caught up in their story as tumultous events, personal and political, overtake them. The narrative sweeps you along at a cracking pace that never lets up despite ranging back and forth between past and present. Jessica Duchen has created a hugely rich and appealing tapestry of characters, and her deftly interwoven sub-plots are filled with astute observations and wry insights about relationships and human behaviour. If the sign of a good book is that you don't want it to end, I was utterly bereft when it had finished.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I read this at the behest of my wife who is Hungarian and as an accurate description of Hungarian cultural attitudes, it is quite good. The author picks up on a lot of characteristics unique to Hungarians and I found myself acknowledging and recognising a lot of these traits. As a novel, I found the story line surrounding Mimi to be much more compelling than that of Karina. In fact, in contrast it made the Karina character's story look a little light-weight and wishy washy. I also found it a bit jarring at times, especially in the early parts of the book when the author jumped from present day to the past without sufficient page breaks or warning. This was especially noticeable at the beginning as you are first introduced to Mimi as a bed-bound pensioner. Then moments later you read about her 'bounding along the pavement' which makes you stop and go back. The ending also seemed a bit rushed and overly convenient.
I don't think the mix of present day and past worked for me. I think either Mimi had to be reduced to a much smaller (and less detailed) role to reinforce subtly, themes in Karina's life, or the modern day aspect could have been reduced to a small role to support the telling of Mimi's story. In fact, I think the author missed a great opportunity to write a very solid and poignant historical fiction family mystery. There was so much to Mimi's life, humble beginnings, prodigious talent, opportunity, world travel, love, loss, suffering. In contrast this made Karina look a like a bit of a spoilt idiot.
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