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The Song Of Names
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The Song Of Names

3.49 of 5 stars 3.49  ·  rating details  ·  528 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Two boys are growing up in wartime London. Martin is an only child, imprisoned in swottish loneliness. Then Dovidl enters his home, a refugee violinist from Warsaw. 'I am genius, ' says Dovidl. 'You have information. Together we make good team.' His arrival brings merriment and love, mischief and menace. Blood-brothers, they roam the ruined city, finding tragedy and triump...more
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Published February 3rd 2003 by Not Avail (first published 2002)
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I enjoyed this story and learned a bit about Jewish culture/religion as well as what people endured in the time of the Holocaust. It was an interesting plot also.
A very good book with flashes of brilliance in observations about music & musicians & Jewish traditions & faith in the wake of the Holocaust. (Lebrecht is a lifelong music critic who here tries his hand--very successfully--at fiction.) There are two main characters: the son of a musicians' manager who takes over his father's business; and the young vioilin prodigy that the former's family harbors as his family perishes in the concentration camps of WWII Poland. Here, the Holocaust pl...more
Two Jewish boys befriend each other; one, Martin, is well off but feels like an outcast - he is very unhappy and lonely, is pudgy, and has a stutter. The other, David, is suave, confident, and is a violin virtuoso but is poor; his family is from Warsaw and sent him to study w/ a illustrious violin instructor in London when WWII interrupts all plans. He moves into a spare room w/ David's family, promoters of classical music. The two boys grow very close, both feeling like outcasts in different wa...more
Feb 06, 2013 Bookguide rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: music-lovers
"My life was a pathetic sonata built upon an unresolved chord, infinitely tense and unrewarding. Like an amputee, I never lost sensation in the missing limb, or the ache of deprivation. Not a day passed without a remembrance of wholeness"

'The Song of Names' is full of musical references, and tells the story of a friendship, a betrayal and delivers the promise of a resolution to the mystery. As the book begins, Martin, the narrator, is a sixty-something uninspired classical music promoter in an e...more
I was stoked to read this book-the review I read of it made it sound amazing. However, I was disappointed. I didn’t even read it all the way through-I stopped and scanned. Sometimes I judge a book by how long it takes me to get through it: if I cannot put it down, or if I am savoring every chapter, turning the pages slowly, or if I am starting it over again to make it last are all indicators that it is a great book! None of this happened with this one. In fact, it was the opposite criteria that...more
Norman Lebrecht was already established as a Music commentator, and the author of a dozen books on Classical music when he startled the publishing industry with this first novel, which won the Whitbread award in 2002.

The novel follows a friendship between two Jewish boys, starting before the Second World War and continuing far beyond. Martin was the son of a music publisher, and his friend Dovidl was Polish. They had a typical boys' friendship; competitive and fighting one moment, but fiercely l...more
I have to say that I didn't really enjoy this book. The story itself is a good one, but it just wasn't told well. I was bored most of the time and I didn't feel sympathy for or even like any of the characters, except perhaps the wife who was only a very minor character anyway. The story wasn't told chronologically which made especially the beginning quite boring. When I found out what the "Song of Names" actually was, it was a bit heart-stopping, but that was one of the few touching moments in t...more
I think this book tries to be too many things. Some of them (a story of Jewish life and inter-communal pressures, an interesting discussion of class in Britain, a look at xenophobia during the war in Britain) it does well. Others (a story about likable people who do bad things or blame others for their problems) it doesn't do in such a winning manner. Overall, enjoyable. Would I read it again or recommend it? Not unless I knew a Yiddish speaking prodigy who'd relate.
I thought this was excellent. I really enjoyed the writing, which had that dry, subtle, British wit. I also found the story interesting. The Jewish angle was refreshingly neither unduly negative nor ignorant. I'm looking forward to a good book club discussion, and I actually recommended it to the YIOP book club as well.
A very good read indeed. Lebrecht has taken back and forth in time to good effect, keeping us constantly engaged with an excellent narrative. His knowledge of the world of classical music and the Jewish faith is well-used without any obvious parading of research and knowledge for its own sake. Highly recommended.
Eva Carrasquero
As a classically trained musician I absolutely loved the musical descriptions in this book--the story itself was fascinating --loved this book!!
Theresa Leone Davidson
Martin is a boy living with his parents in pre-WWII London when another boy, David, a refugee from Poland, comes to lives with them. David is a musical prodigy, and Martin's father is in the business of representing musicians. Then, years after he has first arrived, after David has long been considered one of the family, and Martin's closest friend, he disappears. It happens on the day of his musical debut. Years later, when Martin is in his sixties, he believes he may have found out what happen...more
Martin L. Simmonds is the underachieving son of a music manager whose life changes forever when a Polish violin prodigy comes to live with his family during the World War II. But Dovidl's family perishes in the Holocaust, and Dovidl becomes more a part of the Simmonds family than Martin has ever felt. The two become like brothers, but on the day of his great public violin debut, Dovidl disappears, leaving the Simmonds family in a shambles and Martin without a sense of direction or hope.

The firs...more
There is a poignant and very moving explanation behind the title of this book but unfortunately the author has not woven this idea into a novel which really captures the attention of the reader. The protagonist, Martin Simmonds, fails to engage the reader’s interest, while the all-too brief appearance and disappearance of the mysterious figure of Dovidl, the Polish violin prodigy who enters the home of the protagonist’s family during World War II, fleetingly elevates the novel’s appeal. Dovidl l...more
This is not a book that I would have chosen to read based on the book's summary. However, a good friend recommended it to me and loaned me a copy. The writing is crisp, and I found myself chuckling a lot while reading because the writing is so clever. The narrator has a distinctive voice and critical view. The very final part of the ending, the last two pages of the book, was extremely clever, and flipped the story around in my mind.

I am not the least bit musically inclined. But don't let the to...more
The Song of Names. During the years of Hitler, a group of Hasidic Jews wanted to remember each and every death of all Jews. First they wrote in the linings of their garments. Then with concern those garments would be taken or lost, they started memorizing each death. It became a song of names. A way to remember each name and mourn.

Dovidl Rapoport is a polish prodigy. His instrument the violin.
He is deposited in London by his father to the home of Mortimer Simmonds. Simmonds is charged with takin...more
I really disliked this book. The writing style was good, although dry and verbose at times. I did like the authors use of large, unique words...I really had to think about what was being written...and I liked that. I wanted very much to like this book, but the plot was so flawed.

The "big reveal" 2/3rd's of the way through was a lame excuse. I was hoping that the remaining third of the book would make up for it with interesting plot twists. There were twists, but they weren't interesting.

I parti...more
I thoroughly enjoyed this book which I thought was extremely well written and witty. The flashback to wartime Britain was so vividly written that I had to keep reminding myself this was a novel and not an autobiography. The historical snippets of information about that period were fascinating, such as the digging of mass burial graves in Hyde Park and the blue KitKat wrappers just after the war. I enjoyed the musical references, the holocaust theme, which certainly wasn't laboured or overdone, b...more
I'm sorry, did you just put yourself into your own effing book!?! First all the interminable alliterations and assonance, now this. I just don't think I can forgive you these things, Norman Lebrecht.

The one part of this novel I enjoyed was the section where David tells Martin about the years during his disappearance. Judaism is the most fascinating religion/form of spirituality to me, mostly because of its insistence on asking questions as a way of seeking the truth. I feel that Christianity ha...more
Krystal Tubbs
What I did like about this book was the writing style, I enjoyed the visuals and the word play. However that about ends what I like. What promised to be a story about music, religion, and heart break was a story about petty revenge.

Also, Lebrecht wrote himself into the end of the novel, rather pompous if you ask me.
I read this book in a day, but it was boring. I mean, it was quick and the story was fairly interesting, but the writing was just blah. The dialogue sounded like narrative--and it wasn't even good narrative like Ayn Rand dialogue--and I didn't think anything was detailed or vivid enough. The tone was really inconsistent; most of the time it was a formal narrative, but once in a while there would be an insertion of something (like when he's talking about going to bed with his wife and instead of...more
A very touching story. Two boys met and became almost like a brother to each other. One boy's world became the other boy's life... until years later in their 20s one boy disappeared forever, for unknown reason.

In his 60s, the boy who had became an old man, accidentally heard a particular sound of a string from a violin that he knew so well. The boy who had been missing, a prodigy, a violin's genius, was the only one who could produce that very sound.

So he started again his long search for the ot...more
Chris Sulavik
post-war north london--with a wealth of classical music arcania thrown in. labrecht has a gift of making angry people very funny, and contented people very bland. also, a suprise beginning and a surprise ending.
A little disappointed at first as the book doesn't really resemble the publisher's cover blurb, but I did enjoy it as I read on. Mainly for the insider's insights into the world of virtuoso performers and the people around them, rather than the language or the plot.
The tendency to use and then translate every Yiddish or German or Hebrew phrase was a bit irritating and made some of the dialogue stilted (not helped by some surprising linguistic errors in the German - printer's fault?) The reader...more
I have to be honest, I haven't met too many jews. The few I have met, however, have all been extremely charming, a trait completely absent from any of the characters in this verbose novel. Considering the variety and quantity of words used in this book I struggle to understand how Lebrecht has no comprehension of the meaning of the word empathy.
The story, I feel, is interesting enough, well told, if not a little misleadingly described on the cover, so the only thing I can say is , that at least...more
I might as well admit it to myself, I'm just not going to bother with this one. With a preponderance of adjectives and adverbs it all felt a little irksome for what was coming across as lightweight fiction.
I am a violinist, so it alters my opinion of the book. I loved it. Written by a well respected music critic, this is the story of a Polish refugee boy who comes to London just before WWII to study violin with Carl Flesch. His parents are trapped in the Warsaw ghetto. He is destined to be the next Kreisler, but on the day of his scheduled debut concert, he disappears. Very interesting.
Anya Behn
Ugh. This was an exercise in the author's ego. Every once in a while he would forget himself and the writing was pretty good, but good lord! "...and he laid her down and fucked her adroitly, and well." His main character is basically himself. The interesting part was the Song of Names--the singing to remember who had been lost in the death camps. Other than that, not very good at all.
This book started out so slowly that I almost gave up a few times. I'm glad that I didn't. The more the book becomes about the transcendence of music and real and imagined betrayals, the better. By the time the book revealed the meaning of its title, I was glad that I stuck it out.
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Norman Lebrecht (born 11 July 1948 in London) is a British commentator on music and cultural affairs and a novelist. He was a columnist for The Daily Telegraph from 1994 until 2002 and assistant editor of the Evening Standard from 2002 until 2009. On BBC Radio 3, he has presented from 2000 and The Lebrecht Interview from 2006.

He has written twelve books about music, which have been t...more
More about Norman Lebrecht...
The Life and Death of Classical Music Why Mahler?: How One Man and Ten Symphonies Changed Our World The Maestro Myth: Great Conductors in Pursuit of Power The Game of Opposites: A Novel Who Killed Classical Music?: Maestros, Managers, and Corporate Politics

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“The thing you have to remember about never to trust their immediate response. Whatever the news, their reaction will be self-protective. The mask goes on, and you see only what they let you see. These creatures carry their emotions around in a violin-case, reserving their only honest expression for the public stage. In private, they turn emotion on and off at will. Never believe an artist when he weeps or declares love. It's all a grand performance. Treat their upsets as you would a child's tantrums. Console, then instruct. Show compassion when it's called for, firmness when it runs out. Give them an illusion of your love for them - but never love itself, or they will devour you.” 1 likes
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