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The Glass Harmonica

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  232 ratings  ·  29 reviews
Award-winning author Louise Marley presents a stunning novel about two musical prodigies -- and two different worlds.
Paperback, 384 pages
Published August 1st 2001 by Ace (first published 2000)
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Just Listen by Sarah DessenIf I Stay by Gayle FormanThis Lullaby by Sarah DessenNick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel CohnWhere She Went by Gayle Forman
Fiction Involving Music
417th out of 562 books — 822 voters
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna ClarkeDeathless by Catherynne M. ValenteThe Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer BradleyHis Majesty's Dragon by Naomi NovikThe Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay
Best Historical Fantasy
105th out of 143 books — 130 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 425)
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Nancy O'Toole
Eilish Eam is an orphan living in poverty in London in 1761. She earns her living by playing the water glasses on a street corner. When her music attracts the attention of Benjamin Franklin, he offers her a new life. All she has to do in return is help him with his latest musical invention, the glass harmonica. In 2018, Erin Rushton is a talented musician who plays the glass harmonica. At twenty-three, she's tried of being treated like a child by others who are mislead by her youthful appearance ...more
Belinda Kroll
This book is well-written: all the characters have backstories and motivations, and the setting is fully realized. Despite this, I felt no connection with the characters. I read the entire book, but I never felt drawn to the story, wondering what would happen next. And I should have, because this was an interesting idea. As a musician, I loved the history of the glass harmonica; as a historian, I thought Marley’s depiction of Benjamin Franklin was great; as a scientist, I loved the idea of apply ...more
Dec 21, 2008 Angela rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: sf
The first time I ever heard any version of the old folksong Barbara Allen was in the Daffy Duck cartoon "Robin Hood Daffy", when it was sung by Porky Pig. Who was, I might add, possessed of a surprisingly true voice for a stammering pig--and therefore, it is in no way, shape, or form a statement on the quality of Ms. Marley's writing that her book totally songvirused me with Porky's voice. ;) It is simply a reflection of how the first verse of this ditty, the one that Porky sings, is quoted more ...more
Catsy Turre
I'm not a fan of depressing books, which this is, technically. I also usually don't care for history fiction, but that's my fault because I didn't read the description (I rarely do, I like to be surprised). It was beautifully written, and the environments were definitely wonderful.

*Slight* spoiler

That said, I felt no connection to any of the characters. The main character of the future part, Erin, felt more like a second character to her brother. I didn't see how the past and future were connect
Kris Irvin
Semi-reread. I read this book for the first time when I was 12, because I was super into harmonicas. Note - the mouth harp is not the harmonica featured in this book. It is some sort of odd glass instrument.

Upon re-reading as an older, wise, more awesome version of me, here are my thoughts. I really hate the storyline with Erin and Charlie and Gene. Gene is weird and I don't like him, and Erin is a total whiny baby. I caught that even as a 12 year old, so it's pretty obvious. Their love is real
This book somehow landed on my TBR pile, and I'm embarrassed to say I know not how. I think it was probably left on a book exchange bookshelf and I grabbed it thinking it sounded interesting. It was surprisingly engaging for an unexpected find. There are two intertwined stories: Eilish Eam an orphan living in London, who comes to the notice of Ben Franklin because of her skill at playing melodies on water-filled glasses and Erin Rushton, a child prodigy on the glass harmonica, living in 2018. I ...more
Lis Carey
This is two stories told in alternating chapters, with the connections between them gradually becoming clearer. Eilish Eam is an Irish orphan living in the Seven Dials section of London in 1761, barely keeping herself alive playing tunes on glasses for pennies. Erin Rushton is a professional musician in 2018, playing the glass harmonica to audiences newly interested in the old instrument, in a society going through a serious nostalgia fit. Eilish is found by Benjamin Franklin, who, charmed by he ...more
This story combines one of my heroes (Ben Franklin) and one of my favorite of his inventions. The story is well-written and interesting-- perhaps a little predictable in its outcome, but there are quite enough twists and turns to make it a good destination. My only complaint is (I would venture) not the author's fault, but the result of what I would guess is a mandatory love interest rule for all first-time authors. Here's a hint to publishers-- not every story needs a standard love interest to ...more
This seems to be my month for reading fantasy novels with music as a main theme. This novel is set in the seventeenth century and ten years from now, with a young woman in each setting who plays the glass harmonica. You really care what happens to the characters and the seventeenth century setting in Benjamin Franklin's house in London comes alive in a nice way. The 2018 setting, in Boston, Seattle and London, has some cute touches and assumes some believable technological advances (but why assu ...more
Teri Dluznieski
I absolutely love this book! I came across it on a YA shelf in a bookstore, and something about it caught my attention. I am ever so grateful that it did. What an amazing and unique blend of music, history and the supernatural! And with all of this depth and breadth, Louise Marley combines science fiction components with an absolutely seamless weave. Her characters are very real, and bring so many historic aspects to our awareness, and touches something deep in the heart, while sparking somethin ...more
I enjoyed this one, though I predicted the way it would end. The story goes back and forth between centuries, between the 2 major characters. An orphaned girl is asked by Ben Franklin to help him with his newest invention, the glass harmonica, after he hears her playing the musical glasses on a street corner in London. In the 21st century, a young woman is a musical prodigy skilled at playing the glass harmonica, but is haunted by ghostly visions. I loved all the musical & historical referen ...more
I randomly checked this book out of the library a couple of years ago. I didn't know anything about it, didn't even read the summary on the back. But it turned out to be a treat. The writing was of high literary caliber but at the same time, it was compulsively readable. Once it was finished (all too quickly), I remember wanting either a sequel or to start all over again and experience that first read again. Highly recommended.
Jen Thomas
Okay. Yep, it's a vaguely-historical soft sci-fantasy ghost story, split between Ben Franklin's Irish "apprentice" and a pair of future-Seattle child prodigy musicians, which, weirdly, turns into a... romance? Kind of.

This is the sort of fiction people write when they find out about a cool thing (in this case glass harmonicas) and want to put it in a story... I'm not going to say it's good, but it's different.
The writing is fine and some of the details are interesting but ultimately it is far too sentimental and mawkish which is a pity.
the story was interesting enough and i learned a thing or two about music, it just isn't the first book that would leap to mind when asked for a rec, or probably even the 50th book for that matter. worth a lazy, mindless winter read, probably would be a better beach book. i want to be kinder to it because i didn't dislike it in any way, but it just didn't blow my skirt up.
I enjoyed reading this book and cared what happened to the characters, yet I was left with a nagging feeling that there was something lacking. Maybe I only hoped for more connection between the two girls. I guess, I hated that the probable lead poisoning could have been dealt with from the future but wasn't. Regardless, I would recommend this book to lovers of sci-fi/fantasy.
Very clever story filled with parallelism about the girl who was the first to play Benjamin Franklin's "glass armonica" and the modern day girl in 2018 who plays the instrument professionally. I loved the characterization of Franklin and was able to apply some of what I read to my AP US history class! All in all, an enjoyable read.
I recently finished re-reading this book, after not having read it for several years. It's an odd blend of historical and futuristic fiction. The first time I read it, I had never heard of the instrument, and looked it up to see if that portion was true. The characters are nicely done, though the end is predictable.
Kristi Thompson
I'm not sure whether this was science fiction or fantasy. Possibly both. The doctor keeps alluding to some sort of scientific explanation, though it's never spelled out. But that doesn't seem important. The armonica's magic, is all. ""Tis like that, my little instrument." I really liked poor Elish.
A lovely,sometimes sad story of historical fiction about Ben Franklin and his creation of the glass harmonica,inspried by a waif from London. This is one of my all time favorite books and I read it at least once a year.
A great historical fiction. I love the research that went into this book so that the neuroscience of music was accurate. I also learned a lot about the enigmatic instrument of the glass harmonica.
Really enjoyed this fantasy! The story line alternates between 1760's London and 2018 Seattle, and between two young women, who both play the glass harmonica.

Want to read more from this author!
This was an interesting book because it had some historical fiction as well as a mystery/fantasy twist. It caused me to read up on something I didn't know harmonicas.
Nothing too serious except the girl in the past inevitably dying of lead poisoning. However, the entire book is depressing, and I'm not quite sure why I reread it.
This is an amazing book! Particularly so as I didn't expect to like it this much. Two stories that intertwine between the past and present.
Interesting story with some historical facts that were fun. Loved the info about the instrument and Ben Franklin.
Wonderful story, part historical fiction and part fantasy
Read for Locus, review in Locus #479
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Louise Marley, a former concert and opera singer, has published sixteen novels. Writing as Cate Campbell, her recent books are historical fiction. As Louise Marley, she writes fantasy and science fiction and occasionally young adult fiction.
More about Louise Marley...
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