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Symphony

3.26  ·  Rating details ·  177 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
An audacious, brilliant and haunting novel about the composer Hector Belioz, by the author of PASSION.

In 1827 Harriet Smithson, a beautiful and talented young Irish actress joins an English company taking Shakespeare to Paris. With the ferment of revolution in the air, the new generation is longing for a kind of passionate, spontaneous art. To Harriet's astonishment, it is
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Paperback, 467 pages
Published February 5th 2007 by Headline Review (first published July 3rd 2006)
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David Dunlap
Dec 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
(I'd give this one SIX stars...if GoodReads would allow me to do so...) A biographical novel about French composer Hector Berlioz -- especially focusing on his romance and marriage with Harriet Smithson. Wonderful insight into the characters and a strong sense of place (as one would expect from this author). Also very moving. A genuine triumph -- and my favorite among the Morgan novels I've read thus far. (I even RE-read it some time after the first reading!)
Margaret
Harriet Smithson is an Irish actress; she is from a theatrical family, yet she spent her childhood resisting their calling. Hector Berlioz is meant to follow in his father's footsteps as a doctor, yet he cannot resist the music within him. When Harriet comes to Paris with an English company to act Shakespeare, Berlioz sees her as Ophelia and instantly adores her. After years of an obsession which produces Symphonie Fantastique (probably Berlioz's best-known work), they eventually meet and begin ...more
Sarah
Feb 03, 2010 rated it did not like it
Wow...this book was so difficult to endure, and as hard as I tried to truck along to finish it, I had to quit at page 134.

The premise surrounds the lives of infamous composer Hector Berlioz and the love of his life, actress Harriet Smithson. Anyone who takes the team to learn about this doomed couple would be instantly piqued at the historical fiction fabricated around their relationship or love-affair, if you can call it that. The story is extremely intriguing, but the style of the book is not
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Joana
Apr 24, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a big fan of Jude Morgan's writing but I struggled a little to read this book.
The richness and uniqueness of Morgan's style is still there but the story is very slow paced and I found it a little boring at times. As usual, the characters are marvelously constructed and complex. You don't have to like theatre and music to read this book, but I imagine it makes it a lot more interesting. The sections I most enjoyed were ironically the ones about secondary characters: Dr. Berlioz, Adèle and the
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Sharonb
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
really struggled to finish this.
Alexandra Scarborough
This was the first book I have read by Jude Morgan, and it definitely made me want to examine more of his work. I would actually give this novel 3 1/2 stars if that were possible in the ratings system.

First, I am a fan of good historical fiction, and this novel fit that bill. It was rich in its interpretation of the lives of Hector and Harriet Smithson Berlioz, and was a heartbreaking examination of the conflicting private thoughts we all have about our relationships, our value, our meaning in t
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Bowerbird
Jul 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pre-2011-read
This is the story of Hector Berlioz, but also that of his wife Harriet. Born in Ireland of a theatrical family, her unconventional upbringing and her experience as an actress - a career she does not initially want - contrasts sharply with that of Hector's. His father, a doctor, wants his son to follow in his footsteps, but Hector is more and more determined to make music his life. As "entertainment" is not seen as respectable in the Berlioz family, Hector's choice makes him an outcast. His marri ...more
Sarah
Well, Jude Morgan is officially now one of my favorite authors. He writes just the kind of books I love best (at least the kind of books I love best right now--I go through different reading moods): lush historical fiction, written in an innovative and modernist style, with poetic language, and focused largely on literary types--artists, bohemians, nonconformists, etc. I did have a couple minor issues with this book. It seemed oddly paced to me; it was leisurely and minutely detailed about the t ...more
Kari
Jul 10, 2011 rated it liked it
I loved the use of language in this. Jude Morgan mixes the rhythm and musicality of speech with styles based in opera and the theatre. Like Morgan's novel 'Passion' this book is based on real life people. In this case it is that of composer Hector Berlioz and actress Harriet Smithson which makes it all the more interesting. The only slight grumble is that you are left with a few unanswered questions as to the narrator who sometimes pauses to talk directly to Harriet, and the identity of the inte ...more
Lexi Tatar
Jun 16, 2013 rated it liked it
There was a lot of time spent on the beginning of Harriet's career. This didn't make much sense until the end once I realized how much her character changed and lost everything I came to know in the first half of the book. In general, very fast paced and enjoyable. Morgan writes in a very comfortable writing style where it's just challenging enough that you want to continue to read on. The best way to describe the ending though is anticlimactic. I was hoping for something much more passionate be ...more
Molly
Jan 23, 2011 rated it liked it
This book took me by surprise. I picked it up at Dollar Tree to have a book to read on a long flight. I really liked the novel's structure and using Berlioz' "Symphonie Fantastique" as backdrop and inspiration. I'm familiar with Berlioz' music but I knew nothing about him as a person. I have to assume the story has some basis in fact. I liked that the main characters were flawed. It made the story that much more human.
Spitz
Feb 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
This is Jude Morgan's best book. It's about the composer Hector Berlioz and the woman he married, the actress Harriet Smithson. Both characters are very interesting and the facts about them seem to be absolutely accurate. Another sad commentary on the price women pay when they get involved with great artists.
Karen
Oct 03, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like Jude Morgan. This one was a little too long and didn't wind up in a satisfying way for me, but I enjoyed reading it. I loved the character of Harriet and all the stuff about theater. Weirdly, for something that's packaged to look so romantic, I felt that the author's interest in the book (and thus mine) declined a good deal after the main characters finally got together.
Apple Austria
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
despite the dragging start which slowed down my reading metabolism.. i can say i enjoyed the book.. thanks to its mad characters.. this book slowly drove me mad while the hector and harriet are driving each other mad.. if there's one word to describe this book.. the story.. the main characters.. the experience.. it's MAD..
Shirley
Feb 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Lusciously written in the classic Victorian style - a story that you can't decide you like until you end up being caught up in it and brought through to the bitter end.
Mimi
Sep 19, 2011 rated it did not like it
The story about Hector Berlioz and Harriet Smithson, his muse for his "Symphonie Fantastique" What a hot mess that book was, it was completely stream of consciousness with rabbit trails everywhere. It felt like reading a bad dream, but every time I nearly abandoned it, there'd be this brilliant bit of prose that kept me engaged. I did struggle to the end, but I wouldn't recommend it.
Caitlin Batstone
I loved this. The last 70 pages or so really affected me, made me pretty morose. Which isn't pleasant necessarily, but it's what really happened, and it's the mark of excellent writing. I particularly adored the two interludes, where the book reads in second person and the reader is having a conversation with Chopin and then Mendelssohn. I'm such a dork.
Barbara Cackler
This was a great book - particularly if one is interested in classical music and knows a bit about 19th Century European music. It is a fun bit of historical fiction spun around French composer Hector Berlioz and his romance and subsequent marriage to Irish actress Harriett Smithson. It was a good read.
BarbC
Harder to get through than the first two, but love this author. The world around me ceases to exist when I am reading his words. Love.
VMom
Mar 02, 2010 rated it it was ok
The love story of composer Hector Berlioz & his muse actress Harriet Smithson. Too gloomy and ill-fated for me -- I skipped the middle and read the last chapter.
Almae
Jul 24, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Serious downer. Interesting though.
Laurie
Dec 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
this was really beautiful and sad. i love jude morgan.
Urszula
Jan 19, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinished
Could not get into this book at all.
Not sure if it was the style or the language.
Kathy
Nov 16, 2010 rated it liked it
Historical fiction. Interesting but, again, a depressing end.
Rachel
Sep 10, 2011 marked it as will-not-finish
Judge Morgan has two different speeds: 1) Jane Austen 2) dark and creepy. I need to start figuring out which type the book is before I bother to start it.
Barbara
Sorry Mr. Morgan I did not like this one. I felt that the writing style was too pedantic for me and I could not get interested in the characters.
Phil
rated it really liked it
Feb 12, 2009
Miss A
rated it it was ok
Aug 12, 2011
Caryn Elam
rated it really liked it
Jul 16, 2013
Suzanne
rated it liked it
Oct 17, 2009
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Jude Morgan was born and brought up in Peterborough on the edge of the Fens and was a student on the University of East Anglia MA Course in Creative Writing under Malcolm Bradbury and Angela Carter.

A pseudonym used by Tim Wilson.

Also writes under the name Hannah March.
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