October 8, 2015

A WOMAN OF NOTE: Review & Giveaway, plus a Q&A with the Author, Carol M. Cram


Virtuoso pianist Isabette Grüber captivates audiences in the salons and concert halls of early nineteenth-century Vienna. Yet in a profession dominated by men, Isabette longs to compose and play her own music—a secret she keeps from both her lascivious manager and her resentful mother. She meets and loves Amelia Mason, a dazzling American singer with her own secrets, and Josef Hauser, an ambitious young composer. But even they cannot fully comprehend the depths of Isabette’s talent.

Her ambitions come with a price when Isabette embarks on a journey that delicately balances the line between duty and passion. Amid heartbreak and sacrifice, music remains her one constant. With cameos from classical music figures such as Chopin, Schubert, and Berlioz, A Woman of Note is an intricately crafted and fascinating tale about one woman’s struggle to find her soul’s song in a dissonant world.

My Review:
I've read several reviews that said A Woman of Note was boring, but I personally did not find it to be boring in the least.  Perhaps it was the beautiful writing, or the steadily building suspense between Isabette and those around her, or perhaps it was Isabette being a source of light and innocence in a cast of characters that were, more often than not, less than sympathetic.  I agree there were a couple of flaws, but nothing that made me want to set the book down.  In fact, I read this in a few days, which is not something I ordinarily do.

I believe that the readers who claimed the characters were all one note did not either a) read past the first third of the book, or b) missed the subtleties of the depths of the characters.  The personas that each character portrays to society are, indeed, a bit one note, but this is the middle- and upper-middle-class in 19th century Vienna. You had to put on a bit of a performance in this society.  Underneath, however, I took note of multiple instances in which Cram showed more than this one side to the readers.  Isabette was not just an innocent virtuoso looking for love of both the romantic and musical varieties.  Amelia was not just a spoiled American brat.  Josef was not just a dull cad who had an over-inflated sense of self.  Frau Gruber was not just a domineering bitch. Were they these things?  Yes.  But they were not just these pigeon-holed stereotypes. Cram did give them layers, although I will mention that the layers were often subtle and not always developed to their fullest extent.

I adored every time Isabette sat down to the piano.  Her passion came alive on the pages. I often played the pieces she was working on, unless she was working on Josef's.  I liked that Cram showed how difficult it was to be both a woman and a professional.  I liked that she showed how emotions - and the display and/or concealment of such emotions- were confusing for Isabette, Amelia and Isabette's mother. These women were not pushovers, yet they wrestled with the societal conventions of their time nonetheless.

I enjoyed following along with Isabette and finding out where her heart and ambition might lead.  I wanted to much for her!

If you would be interested in reading the story of a passionate female virtuoso in 19th century Vienna, there is a giveaway below!

Q&A with Author Carol M. Cram

1.     What is usually on your nightstand?
I have quite an eclectic selection of books on my nightstand including both fiction and non-fiction because I tend to have a few books on the go at once. At the moment, I’m surfing between Margaret Attwood’s The Year of the Flood, a non-fiction book about women in the Renaissance, Michael Palin’s new novel Truth, and a book called Wits, Wenchers and Wantons: London’s Low Life: Convent Garden in the Eighteenth Century. This last book is part of my research for my third novel called Upstaged that revolves around the world of the London theater in the early 19thCentury. In addition, I have my Kindle filled with novels—mostly historical novels these days with a sprinkling of contemporary “women’s fiction.”
2.    Which authors have most influenced your writing?
Jane Austen wins hands down, although I wouldn’t say my writing is anything like hers (I wish!) However, the ironic way in which she looks at the world definitely informs my world view when I am writing. As far as other more contemporary authors, I don’t really have any names that spring to mind as influencers. I think I’m influenced by everything I write—every writer is! 
3.     What do you think is your lead character’s best trait?
Isabette’s best trait is her kind and passionate heart. She is in many ways very innocent. She expects that people she loves will be as honest and generous of spirit as she is and is often disappointed. She cares deeply for music and experiences her greatest joy when playing and composing. I wanted to show her as gaining her strength and sense of self from being creative.
4.     What is something your readers would be surprised to know about you?
I am passionate about sharing Nia, a movement-dance practice, with people who are looking for alternative ways to keep fit and feel good about their bodies and their lives. I teach a couple of Nia classes a week on Bowen Island. The practice emphasizes the Joy of Movement and is the physical manifestation of how I feel when my writing is really going well.
5.     Where is your favorite place to write?
I have a few favorite places! In the summer time, my favorite place to write is on the lower deck of our home on Bowen Island that overlooks my garden and pond. Most of the time, the only sounds are birds chirping. I love to look up from the computer screen to see hummingbirds and eagles flitting and swooping about. I also love to write in public places—the lovely little cafes on Bowen Island (shout outs to the Snug Café, Village Baker, and Artisan Eats!) and my favorite Starbucks in West Vancouver where I spend many productive hours when I leave the island to come down to “the continent.” 

Author website: http://carolcram.com
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