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The Time of Our Singing

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  1,579 ratings  ·  224 reviews
A magnificent, multifaceted novel about a supremely gifted -- and divided -- family, set against the backdrop of postwar America

On Easter day, 1939, at Marian Anderson's epochal concert on the Washington Mall, David Strom, a German Jewish émigré scientist, meets Delia Daley, a young Philadelphia Negro studying to be a singer. Their mutual love of music draws them together,
Hardcover, 640 pages
Published January 22nd 2003 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2002)
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Every once in a while you'll get into one of those conversations with an acquaintance who thinks he or she is smarter than you in which you list a string of books you've read recently and authors you particularly enjoy. Invariably Michael Chabon's last name (shay-bawn) is mispronounced in these conversations.

If you want to win the next conversation like this you have, I highly recommend delving quickly and deeply into the urvruh of Richard Powers, who, despite never fully penetrating the upper e
Sep 26, 2007 Jessica rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: my boss
I had a hard time finishing this book, because the ending was so good that I couldn't stop crying. Not because it was sad, but because it was so unbelievably good, and because I'd never before read a long book with an ending that lived up to its heft.

Seriously, it took me like half an hour to read the last few pages, because I kept flinging down the book and pacing around my apartment, sobbing hysterically.

Don't get me wrong, this book is not perfect, and it definitely falters in places. However
"The Time of our Singing" is a magnificent book and I am grateful for one of my most rewarding reading experiences ever. The story starts with a flourish and one marvels at the author's supreme skill, throughout the book's 630 pages, in keeping up the pace, widening the emotional resonances and deepening the narrative's cogency, eventually to let it flower into a profoundly moving and intellectually satisfying finale. It is heartwarming to see that our age - so worn down at times by the pressure ...more
I feel a bit guilty giving this book only three stars.
Yes, it's a highly acclaimed novel, it's relevant and praiseworthy and it tackles huge universal and specifically American themes through the individual stories of the Strom family members, music lovers all. It's almost perfectly constructed, the main narrator Joseph is full of solemn sensitivity and insight, and the author's reflection on (and use of) time and space is mind-grabbing.
The problem is the novel's relentlessnes; not just the ove
Melissa Kyeyune
Phew! I finally completed it! :)

'The Time of Our Singing' tells the story of the two sons of Delia and David Strom.

Delia and David might have been your everyday 1950s couple, had Delia not been an aspiring African American singer from Philadelphia's middle class, and David a white Jewish engineer who had just lost his family in the Holocaust.

The author has juxtaposed many of the Stroms' milestones with the broader American milestones of the 20th century especially with regards to Black-White re
Important Service Announcement:

I read the first 100 or something pags of this yesterday and decided not to continue.
*does not panic*

Yes, I can start a book and not finish it! It hasn't happened very often, in fact, I can't remember that it ever happened, but I'm convinced I can do it. It also helps that this is my mothers book, so I can give it back to her and not be tempted.

Why don't I finish it?

Well, it's a very very long book. And in the first 100 pages, the important ones where al
Ken McDouall
Richard Powers is a genius. Here he tackles a four-part theme: the beauty and power of music, the intransigence and tragedy of racism, the strength and faultlines of family, and the mystery of time and causation. It all fits together in beautiful harmony.
Sep 09, 2013 Carolyn rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of music and great writing
Recommended to Carolyn by: Jim Cooley
Reasons you might not want to read this book: (1) It's very long - 636 dense pages. (2) It skips back and forth through time. I didn't find it at all hard to follow, but some readers object to the technique.

By purest chance, I read this right after finishing _The Butler_. Both books look at the second half (or a bit more) of the 20th century from the POV of an American black family. All I knew about _Singing_ was that a friend who shares my taste in books liked it very much. _Singing is vastly
More to say on this later after some more thought, hopefully. For now: it's totally consumed me. I read the last 100 pages or so until 3 in the morning despite being dead tired. Having just read Powers's The Echo Maker, I'd say this one seems to me more whole and absorbed me more fully, or the other way around. Like a vast timeless poem, it has me not knowing where to begin putting to words what it has done so well in its themes of race, music, and time. I do feel like it achieved the timelessne ...more
Alexandra Graßler
Was für ein geschriebenes Epos. Mir fällt kaum vergleichbares ein, in dem Worte wie Musik komponiert werden und in ihrer Einmaligkeit und Komplexität eine Sprache entfalten, die seinesgleichen sucht. Es gelingt Richard Powers in seinem Werk den Bogen von 1939 bis in die 80er Jahre zu spannen und in dessen Mittelpunkt eine Familie zu stellen, deren Lebensgrundlage immer wieder die Frage zu beantworten sucht: 'Der Fisch und der Vogel können sich verlieben. Doch wo bauen sie ihr Nest?'

Die Geschicht
Dit boek is een absoluut meesterwerk! Het is één van de beste boeken die ik ooit heb gelezen. Het is eigenlijk onmogelijk om een reactie te geven die recht doet aan dit boek. Ik wil wel proberen een indicatie te geven waar dit boek o.a. over gaat: gezin, familiebanden, trouw, liefde, moederliefde, broederliefde, hoop, segregatie, discriminatie, interpretatie Amerikaanse geschiedenis twintigste eeuw vanuit gezichtspunt van zowel zwarte en blanke mensen, idealen nastreven, onvermogen en onwil tot ...more
The Time of Our Singing is a wonderful novel full of heartbreak, joy, triumph, defeat, rage, injustice, and life. The novel spans the period from just before WWII until the late 1990's. Delia is the spoke in the wheel of the novel. She is a young African-American woman, gifted with a beautiful voice, who dreams of singing like Marian Anderson.

When she goes to Washington to hear Ms. Anderson sing on the Mall, she meets David Strom. He is white, Jewish, and refugee from Hitler's Germany. They fal
I had a mixed reaction to this book. It engaged me and I loved the use of music in the story and, as a singer, the descriptions of singing and music. But there were definitely sections where I thought the author was forcing his characters in a particular direction, rather than allowing them to run the story. The discussions of time and the intercutting of different time periods within the story was not entirely successful. In the end, it felt like a white person's book about race. I'd be curious ...more
Philippe Malzieu
Richard Powers Nobel Prize.
Attention chief-work. A powerful novel which speaks about exile after the Nazism, racism, the walk of Martin Luther King, authentic interpretation of baroque music…
It is moving, powerful, a Master book splendid, extraordinary, brilliant
"White? You raising them white?"
"Don't be silly. We're trying to raise them... beyond race." The only stable and survivable world.
"'Beyond' means white. Only people who can afford 'beyond'."

Richard Powers, The Time of Our Singing (London: Vintage, 2004), 487.
Very ambitious and often important and interesting, but just as often tedious. It's about 300 pages too long, but ultimately I'm glad I read it. The last few pages were my favorite; they are the reward for actually finishing.
This book was just so good. Moving, fascinating, complex...manages to weave a compelling family story together with an eerily accurate picture of 20th century U.S. history and race relations. I found myself wishing that this book had been written just after Obama's election, so that Inauguration Day could factored into the framing device of huge, defining moments in Washington (would have preferred that to the Million Man March, which closes the novel). The characters felt real enough that I wan ...more
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'
I thought I would never finish this book. It has over 600 pages but beyond that it is not a "fast read." The storyline and ideas in the book are interesting, but the book moves along slowly, and each sentence seems over written. A good portion of the book is devoted to music terms and references, but with no reference for the layperson. With this kind of writing, the author assumes it's readers know and can understand a great deal, yet there are several instances where foreshadowing, or an event ...more
Sarah Sammis
The Time of Our Singing follows the musical career of one brother as told by another. It's a family drama spread over many decades from the marriage of the boy's parents (a German Jew and a black women who met while singing) and goes up to present day.

I liked the premise of the story and Richard Powers has a masterful control over his prose. Unfortunately, his chosen motif, music, is drawn out as an all-encompassing metaphor for all the problems and triumphs of the characters in the book. As the
One of the best novels I have ever read. Since I lived through the Civil Rights era, the material was familiar, but Powers places it in context in a way that is extraordinarily compelling. He made me understand so many things that I had never thought clearly about, including the way in which African Americans may have been made to feel that they had no right to the European heritage that most Americans simply take for granted, the awful family stresses endured from every conceivable angle by int ...more
while reading it...
This book is toying with me... drawing me in, yet making me work very hard. Powers' way with words is awe-inspiring but he loves his tangents. When he returns to the struggles, emotions and experiences of his characters he astonishes me with his insight and blending of history within his story.

after finishing...
I loved the book. The author is white but dives headfirst into the personal and political realities of race in America, beginning with Marion Anderson being snubbed by
Kris Evans
Wow. A lavishly written novel set in America in the time from the end of WWII to the 60's. A Jewish German physicist marries a black woman and tries to raise their children without race. The black experience is the main theme of this book, underscored with the power of music and woven throughout with thoughts of time being nonlinear. This is a book I started wanting to read quickly and ended up wanting to read again. And, I wish there was a soundtrack to this book!
Jul 25, 2009 Emily rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: musicians
I enjoyed reading this book immensely -- the ending wasn't my favorite, but it did explain some earlier complaints I had about the book. If you love music, or have studied theory, you'll enjoy reading this book. It's built around a family, and is telling a story about this family through time and revolves heavily around racial issues. However, the author weaves in musical descriptions that are rarely found in fiction.

There was one character who never really...resolved. I kept feeling like at th
E quando leggendo l'ultima parola e chiudendo il libro, ti accorgerai che le lacrime scendono da sole e che starai piangendo, quasi a dirotto, non solo per la storia, o per la conclusione della storia (perch�� leggendola capirai anche che questa storia non ha una fine perch�� il tempo in cui si svolge �� quello di una canzone e per sempre), ma per la bellezza dell'opera, ti verr�� voglia di restare ancora fra le pagine di questo libro, incastrato dal fluire della prosa di Powers e della musica c ...more
This book, at 660 pages long is about 600 pages TOO long. The author takes the music theme way too far. Each chapter being a variant on all the chapters before it is way too much repetition. Granted, I can't stand epic stories that cover entire lifetimes from different viewpoints (I also hated the Brothers K), but this was really too much. I got to about page 400 a few weeks ago, and can't bear the thought of trying to get back on that horse again.
Feb 25, 2015 Deborah rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Deborah by: a book review
Shelves: top100, books-i-own
This book is astounding. Very difficult to categorise. Achingly complex, limpid,beautiful prose, worth reading for this alone. But much more awaits. It is a memoir style novel, which attempts to make the reader feel this family's love of music, playing and singing that overspills the bounds which the dominant white society sets, and which tries to thwart their attempts to achieve musical excellence in the classical conservatoire rout, or any other, for that matter. There is more than one kind of ...more
One needs to bring a lot to the table to read this book. Powers layers in a few centuries' worth of musical history, a fair sum of theoretical physics and a near century's worth of African American history to create a powerful story of two mixed race brothers and their journey through the racist American landscape that we live in and have passed through. This a long novel and not for the faint of heart as it closely examines the hatred that envelops us all, but claims as victims those who are no ...more
Prodigiously intelligent and enjoyably florid like all of Powers's novels, but in the end basically just a more academically informed retread of territory already covered by "Forrest Gump." The overly diagrammed plot and overdetermined characters were clever enough and offered a sophisticated pleasure of sorts in watching symbols and leitmotifs lock niftily into place, but there was no passion or heart in evidence anywhere: this book covers the seismic popular upheavals of the Civil Rights era b ...more
Gabriel Oak
Beautiful, devastating book about a mixed race family that disintegrates under the weight of the racial politics surrounding the civil rights movement. The three children are musical prodigies, and their parents attempt to raise them "beyond" race, but they find as they grow up that they can't shake how race constrains their material opportunities and sense of self. The story is narrated from the point of the view of the middle brother, Joseph, and he feels constantly torn between the color-blin ...more
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Richard Powers is the author of eleven novels. He has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, the Lannan Literary Award, two Pushcart Prizes, and the National Book Award.
More about Richard Powers...
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“In that weekly ecstatic keeping of faith and bearing of witness, Delia fell in love with singing. Singing was something that might make sense of a person. Singing might make more sense of life than living had to start with.” 4 likes
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