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Body & Soul
Frank Conroy
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Body & Soul

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  1,359 ratings  ·  213 reviews
In the dim light of a basement apartment, six-year old Claude Rawlings sits at an old white piano, picking out the sounds he has heard on the radio and shutting out the reality of his lonely world.

The setting is 1940s New York, a city that is “long gone, replaced by another city of the same name.” Against a backdrop that pulses with sound and rhythm, Body & Soul brilli...more
Published February 17th 1996 by Random House, Inc. (first published January 1st 1993)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,112)
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A magnificent novel--a rare portrayal of the redemptive role of music in the life of a troubled child & youth. It's actually a double story of redemption, and--in a rare occurrence in contemporary fiction--a story of redemption that actually focuses on the redemption rather than on what the lives are redeemed FROM. The boy who is the main character is redeemed by music--and by a mentor--from a life of neglect by his single mother, who is herself a very troubled soul. Meanwhile, the mentor--a...more
A friend lent me this book, describing it as grotesquely uplifting. The style is very casual and easy to get through, reading like a novel directed towards teens, and does not generally stray into philosophical insight too often. However, I find a great number of the ideas useful, but to what is likely a minority audience. To me, the most important aspects are lessons that Claude Rawlings, the main character, has with his piano teachers. As a pianist, I am intrigued at how these may be applied a...more
What a wonderful read! This book was reccomended to me by a bookseller from Wellesley Booksmith, a local indi bookstore...I am so grateful. If you enjoy broad sweeping storytelling, Manhattan in the 40s,50s and early 60s, and music this is absolutely the book for you. The story follows the growth and emergence of Claude into a world renowned composer and pianist. His beginning life is fraught with much difficulty and abandonment but through the kindness of others, particularly the ever so kind a...more
I was recommended this book by an employee at Barnes and Noble, and it is the one worthwhile recommendation I've ever received there. I read this book usually twice a year, and bought a second copy because the first copy fell apart from lending it out so much. If I meet someone and find out they are a reader, I immediately tell them to read this book. It is such an involving and uplifting story that any person who can read English will enjoy it, regardless of whether or not you like music. My ma...more
Jocelyn  Lindsay
Amazing writer. Conroy is a writer I would read regardless of the story he's telling because his style is so wonderful. He wants to write about a genius musician growing up in the New York of the 1940s? Great. I'm there. He wants to write about walking down the street and catching a bus, I'll be there too. More than a few of the passages from the book had me re-reading them over and over. Claude's story may not have been earth-shattering, but Conroy's technical skills with the written word deliv...more
What a beautiful, beautiful book.

Claude is a musical prodigy and is nurtured by some of the best teachers in the world, though he has little understanding of his talent or that he has happened into some remarkable luck. He comes from nothing- his mother is a cab driver and he has no knowledge of who his father might be, and his talent takes him into worlds that wouldn't be accessible to him otherwise. He experiences the world with innocence and learns quickly that his life isn't necessarily lik...more
Nina Sankovitch
Reviewed on (and can be viewed on goodreads under my page). A wonderful book about a musician, about America in the mid-twentieth century, about resilience. For music lovers, lovers of musicians, and book lovers.
Erin Almond
"Body and Soul" is the first novel I've read that deftly and eloquently captures music on the page. Not just what it's like to listen to music -- although of course that's in there too -- but what it's like to be inside the music, learning to play it, playing it, mastering it, composing it. Conroy follows Claude Rawlings from young autodidact to superstar piano soloist and budding composer, and along the way draws a beautiful, gritty portrait of New York City in the 40s, London in the 60's and v...more
My girlfriend handed me 'Body and Soul' very shortly after we met. I had recently moved out to New York and was blazing headlong into my first, feverish and consuming love affair with the city and this girl I found in it. She said that from all she had already learned about me, that she was going to give me a book that she was sure I would love. Aside from the fact that the book arrived at a great time in the midst of ideal, bewildering circumstances - as many of our cherished books tend to do -...more
Body & Soul was a rags-to-riches tale, set in the 1940s New York. The protagonist, a gifted piano player, rises to fame starting from an out-of-tune piano in his alcoholic mother's apartment, works his way through several piano teachers (sexually ambiguous, fat and brilliant, a gentle but haunted Jewish man)a socially profitable but unhappy marriage, and finally to his destiny. He was pronounced "changed forever" many times throughout. I thought Conroy did a great job invoking New York in al...more
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I loved this book! My test for a good book is that I want to read it quickly and then I don't want it to be over because I will miss it. It passed my test. I miss Claude and his world.

I was given this book by an adult piano student years ago but never was in the right mood for it. I should not have waited so long to read it. You do not have to be a pianist to understand and appreciate the characters but since I am a pianist I could relate to Claude. He is a piano prodigy back in the 1940s in Ne...more
After several friends called and said "This book has your name on it" I was compelled to read what, in my view,
was a total gem.'s a page-turner. Yes...I couldn't put it down from the very first sentence. As the main character is first seen, a lonely boy with an artist's soul.....the reader gets to witness his transformation as a musician, a thinker, and one who struggles against his own sense of existential lonliness as he seeks a sense of identity. Read it if you love music. Read it...more
Wow! I read this long book through within a few days, hardly wanting to put it down. It's a post-WW2 book about a boy born to a very poor family in New York. He has an extraordinary musical gift and is helped along the way by a number of very generous people. From a musical point of view, it's pretty technical. In fact, the music becomes a character in its own right, fully equal to the other characters. I had a stray thought that the main character might be autistic -- or have Asperger's -- he's...more
Jay Heiselmann
Let me first say that I liked this book. It read well, was fun and was pretty true in musical terms(at least to my knowledge) The author painted a good picture of New York in the 40s and the struggles of any artist, musician or other.

I also felt like the book was very predictable. Nothing major ever shocked me. It was almost a diluted version of one of my favorite books, The Fountianhead. Replacing architecture with music and loosing all the tension of a man with his own ideas against the world...more
I really liked this book - in fact I read it until 4:00 in the morning. The author was head of the Iowa City Writer's workshop. It's fascinating I think to anyone who likes music and not just someone like me who has studied music. Takes place in Brooklyn and at age 6 is in the apartment alone while his mother drives a cab. His loneliness compels him to explore the piano in his bedroom and that is just the beginning!
Body and Soul reminded me of novels I read in my teens by authors such as Somerset Maugham: tender, I guess, and incandescent. Claude's early years, spent in the basement miasma of his mother's dispair, were especially well done. There was a muted quality to the emotions throughout the entire book except for one quiet, bubble burst of sadness when he read paragraph 23.
Aug 09, 2007 Etuckermiller rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: jack killen
a good story thus far about the power of passion, in this case for the piano, and especially interesting to those musically inclined. Frank Conroy is a great writer and creates an omnicient sense of the continuity of time past the end of the story. I find myself wondering is happening to Claude now.
the characters were very well established and the author did a very good job as a whole, but the story itself was a tad boring...there were no surprises...
The story of Claude, a young boy who becomes the greatest pianist of all times. If you enjoyed "An equal music" by Seth, you won't regret reading this book.
This book was recommended to me as a "life changer" by a friend. I thought it started off really well, but lost steam, for me, about 2/3 of the way through. But those beginning oarts, wow!

It's a sort of rags to riches story, with self-awareness and a lot of luck thrown in. The story begins when Claude is six, often left home, while his mother earns her living driving a cab. I loved the view of New York City from ankle level via the window of the basement apartment, where Claude is locked in to b...more
Body and Soul by Frank Conroy entertains completely. We meet Claude, the book’s precocious, piano-playing phenom, as a boy, and follow him from child prodigy to professional performer.
…no matter where he was, when he sat down at the piano the world around him simply didn’t matter. His physical relationship was fixed. All else was transitory. He was located.
Even if Claude is a bit too godlike (even his inevitable and novelistically-essential fall from grace is graceful), if several of the charact...more
Kraig Horton
---Includes a small amount of spoilers---

This is an amazing novel and a beautiful story that starts grimly in 1940s New York. So far reading this work by Conroy as been nothing than pure enjoyment. I have been brought in the young boy Claude Rawlings life and have been able to experience his life of captivity caused by his estranged, taxi driving, overweight, OCD conspiracy obsessed mother. To the journey of him finding an old console white piano which would change his life forever. This story i...more
My Aunt Patti gave me this book, and she was right in guessing that I'd like it. There's no question as to why she gave it to me- it's the story of a pianist's life, from his early childhood through his mid-twenties. It's full of fairly technical music-talk, most of which I'd think wouldn't be very appealing to a reader who didn't have a strong musical background. Mr. Conroy described music so well, though, that maybe it would take on a more universal appeal. I think he really understood the way...more
Christopher Litsinger
This book remains one of my favorite books. Conroy's ability to describe childhood is dead on, his descriptions of period New York City bring it to life, and the book has a reputation as being one of the finest descriptions of what it is like to be a musician.
I love very nearly everything about the book. Even after reading it many times, I still have to pause and put it down periodically after a particular phrase or passage strikes me.
If the book has a weakness for me, it is in Conroy's inabilit...more
Conroy's debut novel, although he was already well-known for his brilliant memoir Stop-Time, Body and Soul is the exploration of the life of a child prodigy, raised in poverty and neglect but achieving fame and fortune through his incredible musical gift. The saga chronicles his struggles with himself, his environment, his family, his ambition, and ultimately with the talent that has given him everything. In part it is a bildungsroman and reminded me of favorites like Great Expectations and Of H...more
Dec 09, 2010 sab marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to me 12/9/10 by Linda R.
Don't usually read music related books but we'll see!

Hi Sarah,

I was telling your mother about a fabulous novel that I read and will be reviewing for my book club and she suggested I tell you about it. It’s right up your alley. Body and Soul by Frank Conroy. It was published in 1993, I believe. The main character is a child prodigy pianist and it’s his story, his life, with fabulous references to classical music and jazz. You’ll want to hear all the pieces and...more
September choice for Neighborhood Book Club - about Claude Rawlings rise from a poor boy of a taxi cab driver, slightly crazy mother and unknown to him father, who lived in NYC. He became involved with Aaron Weisfeld who became his 1st piano teacher.
The book was very readable and enjoyable. Even though I hardly play the piano and am not very musical, I very much liked all the music details.
I'm not sure that Body and Soul is ultimately as good a book as some of my other 4-stars, but I truly enjoyed reading it, so 4 stars it is. There is a lot of technical information about music packed in here, much of which was over my head, but what I understood gave me a window into music performance and theory that was intriguing. The main character, Claude, has a terribly rough start in life, but once he meets his music teacher and friend, things take a turn for the better that is sometimes so...more
Samantha Sevekow
this is a good book, very well written. this will be a classic. The development of the characters, and the plot is excellent. It's not a quick read. it's a book you want to read sentance for sentance bc the writing is so great.

The story is of a young boy in NYC during the times of WWII, that has a single monther that drives a cab, and he discovers that his calling to to play the piano at a young age. Makes you believe in the humanity of others that see genius in a person, and will give of thems...more
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Frank Conroy was an American author, born in New York, New York to an American father and a Danish mother. He published five books, including the highly acclaimed memoir Stop-Time, published in 1967, which ultimately made Conroy a noted figure in the literary world. The book was nominated for the National Book Award.
Conroy graduated from Haverford College, and was director of the influential Iowa...more
More about Frank Conroy...
Stop-Time Midair: Stories Time and Tide: A Walk Through Nantucket The Eleventh Draft: Craft and the Writing Life from Iowa Writers' Workshop Dogs Bark, but the Caravan Rolls On: Observations Then and Now

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“La mauvaise musique est jouée tous les jours, la bonne ignorée.” 5 likes
“Musique, nourriture et femmes. Tels sont les grands plaisirs de la vie. Les plaisirs durables. Vous apprendrez cela, jeune moine.
- J'ajouterais les livres, fit Claude, quelque peu embarassé. Vous savez, de bons livres.
- Bien entendu! Vous êtes un amateur de livres! C'est parfait.
- Ils ne vous laissent pas tomber.”
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