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The Time of Our Singing

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  1,877 Ratings  ·  268 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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Aug 02, 2016 Hugh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the second Powers book I have read, and it left me wanting to read more. Like Orfeo, this is a book which shines with a deep love and knowledge of music of all kinds.

This one centres on a mixed race American family of musical geniuses. The central figures are Delia Daley, a singer from an upwardly mobile black family, her husband, the Jewish physicist David Strom who has fled Nazi Germany, and their children - Jonah, a talented classical singer who struggles to avoid being typecast and
May 12, 2007 jeremy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 really liked it
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
Jul 01, 2012 Andrea rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Feb 01, 2011 Philippe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, music
"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
Mar 21, 2013 Hanneke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Nov 30, 2015 Gabriele rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Il primo impatto non è stato affatto semplice: lo stile di Powers è ricco, ripetitivo, tende all'autocompiacimento. Powers sa scrivere bene ed è lui il primo a saperlo; quello che non sa è quando fermarsi con le sue frasi ad effetto e quando dare invece più spazio ai suoi personaggi. Però è solo l'impatto iniziale: 2-300 pagine dopo la prima, quando lo stile iniziale è andato diluendosi - o, più probabilmente, la storia oramai è entrata nel vivo e diventa difficile riuscire a mettere giù questo ...more
Melissa Kyeyune
Mar 19, 2012 Melissa Kyeyune rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Ken McDouall
Dec 17, 2014 Ken McDouall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Sep 13, 2016 Neil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bird and fish can fall in love. But where will they build their nest?

Where to start when reviewing this book? You can read the book description to get an idea of what it is about: 3 children of mixed race parents in America during the racial tensions of the 1950s and onwards.

But it wouldn’t be Richard Powers if that was all there was to it. Powers tells us the stories of these children growing up, but one parent is a singer and one is physicist. This gives Powers opportunity to play to his stren
Sep 09, 2013 Carolyn rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Feb 23, 2008 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 14, 2015 Rita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Prachtig boek! Geweldig interessant en informatief ook. Wat een mooie analyses en subtiele beschrijvingen. 4 sterren en geen 5 omdat het soms te veel is van alles, te wijdlopig en meer van hetzelfde. Maar ik ben sprakeloos van het vertelde verhaal.
Roger Brunyate
Jun 03, 2016 Roger Brunyate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: race-slavery
Musical Immersion

I have participated in classical music as an amateur my entire life, and worked professionally in the field for four decades; they are different experiences. Up to now, the novel that most completely captured both the love-affair of the amateur and the exacting discipline of the performer has been An Equal Music by Vikram Seth, set in the world of chamber music. But this 2003 novel by Richard Powers eclipses even that beacon. Beginning with the astounding competition win by a
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
Oct 29, 2010 Gloria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 28, 2013 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 24, 2008 April rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 21, 2011 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
I could listen to this man sing his lyrics all day long. He is a tad verbose at times but it is a minor transgression. This book sat on my shelf for years which now, in retrospect, seems like a sin. It is a powerful, powerful book. Read it. Listen to his words. Absorb them. Savor them. The themes of the book are relevant and worthy of contemplation long after the book is set aside, especially given the tragic racial conflicts of late. I loved his aspirational message of living "beyond" race.
Nov 29, 2015 Gail rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even though it took me forever to finish this book it deserves 5 stars for originality, exquisite writing, and major truths about American racism. It was so hard for me to read very much at a time due to the abundance of information on every topic the author chose to illuminate. But by the end it was worth slugging through for the wisdom. Not soon to be forgotten...
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
Jan 27, 2012 Gail rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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.
May 04, 2016 Sylvie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016
Als het over Apartheid gaat, denken we (ik toch) altijd vooral aan Zuid-Afrika. Richard Powers laat ons Apartheid in de Verenigde Staten in de 20ste eeuw aan de lijve ondervinden. Delia & David, zwart & wit, katholiek & joods, wagen het te trouwen en hun kinderen op te voeden alsof er geen rassen zijn. De gevolgen zijn niet te overzien.
Powers stort zich op tijd (menselijke uitvinding, illusie, hoe beweegt die, ...?) en op klassieke muziek maar het zijn vooral de gevolgen
Jan 08, 2014 Brigid rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 18, 2012 Lois rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
a complex beautiful story - but WAY TOO LONG.
I made it all the way through and loved how the threads all wove together at the end, but I really felt like the author tried too hard.

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 (perché leggendola capirai anche che questa storia non ha una fine perché il tempo in cui si svolge è quello di una canzone e per sempre), ma per la bellezza dell'opera, ti verrà voglia di restare ancora fra le pagine di questo libro, incastrato dal fluire della prosa di Powers e della musi
Mar 23, 2011 Caroline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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'
Sarah Sammis
Jun 08, 2007 Sarah Sammis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: released
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
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Descriptive passages 1 22 Feb 02, 2009 05:41PM  
  • You Gotta Have Balls: A Novel
  • Stone in a Landslide
  • Palinuro de México
  • The Tenants
  • Television
  • Music of a Life
  • The Exquisite
  • The Games of Night (Quartet Encounters)
  • Assorted Fire Events
  • Livealbum. Erzählung.
  • The Flood
  • The Heart Of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made
  • Dangerous Parking
  • Players
  • The Concert
  • The Brothers
  • The Nightwatchman's Occurrence Book: And Other Comic Inventions
  • Step Out on Nothing: How Faith and Family Helped Me Conquer Life's Challenges
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.

Librarian note: There is more than one author with this name in the Goodreads database.
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.” 5 likes
“The use of music is to remind us how short a time we have a body.” 2 likes
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