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Music for Wartime: Stories

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  1,326 ratings  ·  245 reviews
Named a must-read by the  Chicago Tribune , O Magazine,  BuzzFeed ,  The Huffington Post ,  Minneapolis Star-Tribune , and The L Magazine

Named one of the best short story collections of 2015 by Bookpage and Kansas City Star

Rebecca Makkai’s first two novels, The Borrower and The Hundred-Year House, have established her as one of the freshest and most
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published June 23rd 2015 by Viking
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 ·  1,326 ratings  ·  245 reviews

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Apr 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I have already mentioned on GR probably a few too many times how I feel about short stories: I am reluctant to read them, am often happily surprised at how much I like some of them when I finally get round to reading them, kick myself for being reluctant to read them, and then want to read a novel by the author of the good short stories I have just read. Which pretty much sums up my reaction to the stories in Music for Wartime. Some of these stories are stunning and some are very good and some a ...more
Diane S ☔
Jan 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
second story. The worst you ever feel. A young violinist watching a master play after years in a Romanian prison, is able to tell from the music what the man went through. Quite good.

Third story , November. A reality show where the contestants are all artists of some kind. All sent to an artist's colony to live together. Every week has a theme and every week someone is eliminated. A good look at the behind scene staging of these shows and how it can rub off into personal lives.

4th story, The Mir
Apr 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
There are only two types of stories in this splendid collection. Great ones. And outstanding ones. Truly, there is not a clunker in the batch.

Typically, in reviewing a short story collection, I start out with my favorites. But I’d be hard put to choose from among 17 stories (including some short-shorts inspired by Rebecca Makkai’s own colorful family history. Among the most memorable for me: “Couple of Lovers On A Red Background”, which starts, “I’ve been calling him Bach so far, at least in my
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Having heard many positive things of this collection of short stories (it appears on quite a few 'best short stories' collections') I was prepared to be dazzled. Rebecca Makkai can certainly write well. While her prose is void of flowery metaphors or lyricism, her use of a more straight-forward type of language that is nevertheless striking for its preciseness. Makkai's writing definitely appealed to me, and I did find that it complemented the themes and c
I read Rebecca Makkai's second novel, The Hundred Year House, last year and was really impressed. This collection of short stories has only confirmed my faith in her talent: although it's slightly patchy, some of them are spectacular.

I'll start with 'The November Story', because I thought it was absolutely perfect. It's about a woman who's working on the production team of a reality TV show, something a bit like Big Brother except all the contestants are artists. (It's called Starving Artist.) S
Larry H
Jun 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
More than 4 stars, not quite about 4.25 stars?

Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

A reality show producer. A cellist dealing with the presence of a growing shrine on her property. A minister in a town plagued by weather-related issues. A college professor for whom nothing seems to be going right. These are just a few of the characters in Rebecca Makkai's wonderful and intriguing new story collection, Music for Wa
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Late to the party on this brilliant collection and new to this acclaimed author's writing. Now I see what all the buzz is about. I read her stories in awe, knowing I will never be able to match her ability to conceive such layered, rich stories. Of the 17 stories in this book, I only skimmed one of them. I was entranced by the rest. Makkai's prose is eloquent and assured, but never too dense. Her dialog is spot on, as are her observations of human nature (how does one so young have this gift for ...more
Tammy Parks
Jul 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
4.75 stars. A beautiful collection of short stories, loosely tied together by themes of loss and sadness. I'll be thinking about some of these stories for a long time. ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I received a copy of this from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I read one of Makkai's novels, The Borrower, previously, and I think I can say I enjoyed these short stories more. I liked the themes of music and war moving throughout them without the pressure to connect them otherwise. Some of the stories are very short, 2-3 pages, while others are longer.

Some favorites:
The Worst You Ever Feel - a little perspective, shall we say, from a nine-fingered violinist

Kasa Cotugno
Apr 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The best short story collections contain a paradox -- while short in print length, they can contain material of such complexity and meatiness, thus requiring more effort on the part of a reader than novels of same size. Such is the case here. Usually there is at least one story that makes the eyes roll, the impatience accelerate, but not here. Several of the stories do have music as an element, but they are handled in such a way as to demonstrate an insider's intense knowledge of the art form as ...more
Rachel León
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Makkai is a fabulous writer and though I loved both of her novels, this short story collection is my favorite book by her. Obviously with any collection there will be stories that resonate more than others, but a couple of the stories rate among my favorite short stories ever. There is so much skill and emotion in these stories that it's hard not to be both impressed and moved. If you're looking for a great short story collection, I highly recommend checking out Makkai's. ...more
Apr 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Even readers who typically do not enjoy short stories, I highly recommend adding Music For Wartime by Rebecca Makkai to all reading lists. Makkai’s latest release is due out in June 2015 and she has crafted some intense, thought provoking, and unforgettable stories. Typically when I read a collection of short stories I except to dislike a few, however that was not the case with Music For Wartime. Makkai’s writing is deeply moving, passionate, intense, descriptive, and not one story contained flu ...more
Jennifer S. Brown
I read this book over the course of months, because the short stories were so beautiful I wanted to savor each after I read them. After some, I just thought, "Wow." This book is a master class in short stories. ...more
What an exceptional, stunning and creative short-story collection. Rebecca Makkai seamlessly changes voice and point-of-view for her stories: male [“Peter Torrelli, Falling Apart”], female [“Couple of Lovers on a Red Background”], varied ages [“The Worst You Ever Feel” is told from a young boy’s perspective.], races [there’s Celine, the Asian musician in “Cross”] and sexual orientation. She transports to varied times and places with ease.

“The November Story” details an imagined behind-the-scen
Kim Lockhart
Oct 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
A high quality collection of thematically similar and engaging short stories. A worthwhile read.
Roger Brunyate
May 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A Stunning Set of Stories

As a musician myself, I am generally leery of authors who use music in their fiction, as it is so often only half understood. But by the same token, writers who get it right are a sheer joy; I am thinking especially of Vikram Seth ( An Equal Music ), Richard Powers ( The Time of Our Singing and Orfeo ), and now Rebecca Makkai. There is not music in every one of these seventeen stories, but those that do use it are memorable. "The Worst You Ever Feel" has a twelve
Lolly K Dandeneau
Jan 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
I have been learning to love short stories a lot more lately because of such writers. This collection is pretty fantastic and each story touched a nerve with me. Sad is such an empty word for what the characters go through, but it's strangely beautiful too. I can't help but share some of my favorite lines.

"You know our whole thing about leapfrogging into someone else's body? it was like that, but like I suddenly leapfrogged into myself."

..he thought of mankind as a line of miserable monkeys chai
Nov 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-this-year
Wow! Best collection of short stories I've read this year. Brilliant and compassionate- a small novel in each story. ...more
Mindy Mejia
I've owned this book for a few years and it always sat somewhere in the middle third of my TBR pile. Now seemed like the perfect time to dig in as Makkai's new novel, THE GREAT BELIEVERS, is exploding into bookstores with rave reviews and accolades. My MO with short story collections is to read half the book, set it down for a moment, and never think of picking it up again. That was not an option with MUSIC FOR WARTIME. Wow. The stories were indeed threaded with themes of music--mostly classical ...more
Mar 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Roughly one year ago I read and reviewed Rebecca Makkai’s second novel The Hundred-Year House. Looking back to those recorded thoughts compared to my memory I realize that a large part of my response to her novel stemmed from the power and promise of Makkai’s writing overcoming some flaws in the construction of a full novel. As impressive as the novel was, it really does resembles a collection of shorter stories interwoven around the history of a family and home. I wasn’t looking forward to anot ...more
May 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-fiction
First heard "The November Story" on This American Life (I think) and LOVED it. So glad that I came across this book in the library stacks. Several of the stories play with the same kind of framework--other art forms are brought in, and artifice is addressed more directly. The characters are aware of the central metaphors, and we are aware of their the writing is just so good. Recommend it a million. ...more
Nov 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Yes, I'm in love with Makkai's prose. Reading her prose is like becoming an archeologist. You have these beautiful metaphors buried in these intriguing stories; as you dig into the story this impressive building emerges and finally towers over you at the end.

"Music for Wartime" is a collection of short stories and while I didn't love all of them, several left a mark. Most stories mention survivors of WWII. Hungarian and Jewish emigrants are featured often, and several stories have the distinct t
Jun 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
An exceptionally well written collection of stories. I was particularly drawn to the stories with historical settings. Makkai has a knack for bringing the distant past lucidly to life. Maybe 4.5 stars for the stories with contemporary settings for the way themes and motifs are relentlessly hammered home, the repetition of which can drag on a narrative the way overuse of adjectives can slow down a sentence. But that's a minor quibble. Almost all the stories have strong plots and are good for a tw ...more
RM's gift in this outstanding collection of short stories is to skillfully trick the reader into believing that each story is a novella, so complete and compelling are her constructed worlds.

We will repeat these facts until they sound like history. We'll repeat them until they sound like fate. p112

As wonderful as I experienced these stories not so long ago, I was shocked by how little I remembered.
The upside is that I got a fresh experience of these insightful, perfectly crafted yet lively stori
Francesca Marciano
Dec 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great collection of short stories! So unusual and surprising in tone. A whirlwind blend of different voices, Makkai goes effortlessly from straightforward realism to magical. Her touch one moment is light, filled with subtle humor, surreal (How about having Bach wiggle out of your piano and settle on your couch with a beer?) and the next is melancholic, heartbreaking and incredibly real.
Favourites:Couples of Lovers on a Red background, The Miracle years of Little Fork, Painted ocean Painted shi
Karen Fresh
Jul 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
A collection of short stories. Many tied in to a war, some were about music, some were about both. I really liked a few of these, but several were too arty or pretentious or trying to hard to be clever. A story would go on for a couple of pages and then end, and I was left to figure out what the heck it was about. Maybe that was the point.
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Engaging stories.

And don't you just love references to one of your favourite books?

"'Did you ever read that book when you were a kid?' Peter said as we walked through the emptying halls. 'The one where the kids run away and live in the Met?'

"'And they bathe in the fountain,' I said." (p. 79-80)
Len Joy
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this collection on a long flight. Sometimes I find it challenging to read a collection of stories in one sitting. With some collections there is a sameness that makes it sort of wearying to read one story after another; (after a reading a bunch of Raymond Carver stories I either wanted a drink or to check into AA;); and some short stories while skillfully written require so much work to understand (I have my limitations) that it is just not fun to read more than one at a time.

But Makkai’s
Graham Wilhauk
Aug 04, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a rather good collection, though there was a lot of filler in it. There is really only 220 pages in this collection and at least 60 to 70 pages of it were stories that felt unnecessary. I do really like Rebecca Makkai's writing style and about three or four of the stories in here are REALLY good. However, there is just too much mediocrity for me to say that this is a great collection. In short, this collection is a good one that handles a lot of complex topics, but it just isn't enough ...more
Zac Johnson
Dec 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best short story collections out there. Rebecca Makkai is truly one of our best living short story writers. Her sense of scene, her attention to character, her ability to sum up with a single sentence, more love, heartache, and ecstasy than most writers are able to achieve in an entire novel: these are the reasons she is one of our greatest living story-tellers. Highly recommended.
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"Rebecca Makkai is the author of the short story collection MUSIC FOR WARITIME (Viking, 2015) and the novels THE HUNDRED-YEAR HOUSE and THE BORROWER. Her short stories have appeared in four consecutive issues of THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES (2008-2011). She lives in Chicago and Vermont." ...more

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