Review: Sonata for Miriam

Title:  Sonata for Miriam

Author:  Linda Olsson

Published:  February 24, 2009

# of Pages:  273

ISBN:  978-0143114703

My Rating:  3.5/5

On a midsummer day in Auckland, New Zealand, two events occur that will change composer Adam Ankar’s life forever.  As a result, Adam embarks on a journey to uncover his family’s past that takes him from New Zealand to Krakow, Poland, where he learns of his parents’ fate during World War II, and finally to Sweden.  There he meets the mother of his child for the first time in over twenty years and must face the impossible choice she once forced him to make.

Sonata for Miriam was … different.  On the one hand, the writing was undeniably gorgeous.  I mean, it just flowed – I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the beautiful words splayed across the page.  They fit perfectly together, and even more, the style of the writing lent very well to the content of the story.  It was a morose, dreamy type of story, and that’s exactly what the writing portrayed.

I was interested in the story from the beginning, but I have to admit that I was quite confused in several places.  At first, I found it difficult to separate Adam’s quest to find out more about his parents with his quest to get in touch with the mother of Miriam – in the beginning of the story, I had a hard time deciding which journey he was speaking of when he was describing something or someone he encountered.  Once I got the stories straight, I became very invested in both storylines – I was curious about his roots, and I also couldn’t wait until he finally spoke with Cecilia.  Both stories were equally interesting, and I enjoyed that they were woven together in a seamless way (once I got the hang of what was going on).  

About three-fourths through the book, the narration switches to Cecilia from Adam, and I’ve seen several bloggers express their frustration with this, but I personally thought it was the right thing for Olsson to do.  Cecilia’s story was so personal, so intertwined with her sense of self and every decision she made in her life, that it would have felt awkward to hear Adam tell us about her past.  She needed to explain to the reader where she was coming from – for me, it made her more real.  Up until that point, she was someone that Adam spoke about (or spoke TO, which was actually kind of strange), but the reader really didn’t know a lot about her.  I actually really enjoyed the portions that were narrated by Cecilia.

Here’s where I was most disappointed:  the ending.  I just didn’t feel like I got the conclusion that I needed.  And that’s all I’ll say about that because it’s not fair to go more in depth to those who haven’t read the book.

Sonata for Miriam is a beautiful book that has a lot going on in its 273 pages.  I think that were I to read the book a second time, knowing what I know having read the entire thing, I would get a lot more out of it.  The confusing parts would be less so and I could just relax and enjoy the lyrical writing and intriguing story.  I am pretty sure that I could rate it higher if I read it another time, but even so I liked the book and would recommend it – just read slowly, and you may have to work to “get” everything that’s going on.

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19 thoughts on “Review: Sonata for Miriam”

    1. Thanks, Nat. I try to be as honest as possible, but it is definitely difficult when you don’t want to hurt an author’s feelings! I just try to always highlight both positives and negatives – almost always, there’s a little of both in each book I read.

    1. I definitely think it’s a worthwhile read despite the negative aspects of my review. The book is worth reading for the gorgeous prose alone, but the story is also very interesting.

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