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Ghost Variations

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  60 ratings  ·  20 reviews
The strangest detective story in music, inspired by a true incident.

London, 1933. Dabbling in the once-fashionable "glass game" - a Ouija board - the famous Hungarian violinist Jelly d'Arányi is amazed to receive a message supposedly from the spirit of the great composer Robert Schumann, asking her to find and play his long-suppressed violin concerto. Jelly, formerly muse
ebook, 279 pages
Published September 20th 2016 by Unbound
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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 ·  60 ratings  ·  20 reviews

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Edward Higgins
Sep 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Jessica Duchen’s 'Ghost Variations' is an evocative and beautifully-crafted story inspired by real-life events.

It’s 1933, and Jelly d’Arányi – the famed Hungarian violinist – is tapping the boards when she receives an abrupt message from the late Robert Schumann. The composer wants her to track down and play an unknown violin concerto, which he had apparently written in life.

Shumann’s mysterious concerto turns out to be real – its existence having been concealed by the composer’s family due to
Olga Miret
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Music, mystery, beautiful writing and a story that proves reality is weirder than fiction I’m writing this review on behalf of Rosie’s Book Review Team. I was given an ARC copy of this book and I voluntarily chose to review it.
I enjoy reading in a variety of genres but have recently realised that I really enjoy historical fiction, as it offers me both, great stories and a background that’s interesting in its own right and that often offers me insight into eras and situations I know little about.
Luba Ulybysheva
Oct 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A captivating and enticing read.

At the heart of this book is a poignant story of a great violinist, Jelly d'Aranyi, or "An Artist of the Floating World"( to borrow from Ishiguro) trying to come to terms with an ever alienating society and the world as it is rapidly approaching another Great War. Although the main plot is the search for a Schumann violin concerto, it seems almost secondary, an effect rather than a cause.


As Jelly is getting older she laments times past, with a brilliantly succes
Lisa Kucharski
Nov 29, 2017 rated it liked it
The overall idea for this is interesting but I found this a bit more romantic than I prefer. It wasn’t a page turner and for me got interesting just past halfway. If you like this time and music, this will be of high interest. Also sad to see so much of history of the past repeating itself now. Would love to hear the work now.
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There are so many strands to this book, so many different things that have their own unique appeal. Firstly, it is beautifully written and an absolute pleasure to read. Secondly, its subject matter is intriguing, and a book that mixes fact and fiction is something that really appeals to me. The mystery of the concerto, the story around its discovery, the back story about Schumann himself which is heart-breaking, and the historical detail that seems so particularly relevant today - all these thin ...more
Elizabeth Lloyd
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Set in 1930s Britain and strongly based on real events, Ghost Variations is resonant with attitudes and feelings relevant to us now. Jessica Ducheny tells the story of renowned violinist Jelly d’Aranyl towards the end of her career. At 42, she feels the need for a new purpose which is partly fulfilled by a series of free concerts, open to everyone, in the finest cathedrals in the land.

Jelly and her sister had been brought to England from Hungary, when she was in her teens and Jelly’s considerab
Patrick Kincaid
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In this novel, Jessica Duchen manages a neat trick, and I don't quite know how she did it. On the one hand, it is a very persuasive reconstruction of an extraordinary true story from the music world - namely, the apparent discovery of a 'lost' Schumann concerto via spirit messages, and the subsequent premieres in Germany, the US and the UK in the 1930s. It's a fascinating story filled with fascinating characters, struggling to maintain their roles in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile ...more
Katherine Sunderland
This is a fascinating work of fiction that makes such an interesting story it is difficult to remember it's based on very real events! Set in London in 1933, this novel opens with a Ouija board game which reveals to the Hugarian violinist, Jelly d'Aranyi, a message from the composer Schumann asking her to find a missing violin concerto. This search for the concerto then takes us to Germany as it is discovered that the Nazi's are also intrigued by the power of this piece of music and how they mig ...more
Sep 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish I'd liked this book more. There are some very nice reviews here about it.
I just thought it was ok.
Violinist Jelly d'Aranyi does one of those glass-moving-to-various-letters on a Ouji board things and finds herself in receipt of a message from the dead composer Richard Schumann. She is to find his lost final concerto.
You know when you have something unbelievable to explain to folk (like, the bloke living next door is really a werewolf) and everyone you tell thinks you are quite daft. Well,
John Peel
Dec 09, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a novel based on a true story, and the true story reads better than the novel. A musician gets a message from the spirit world about a missing composition by Robert Schumann and sets about finding it. The problem is that it's in a German museum, she's part-Jewish and Hitler is consolidating his grip on power. The novel mixes fact and fiction and, unfortunately, allows a lot of the interesting parts to take place off-screen (so to speak). It's quite readable, but could have been a lot bet ...more
May 10, 2018 rated it liked it
A just okay endeavor for me but obviously the product of thorough research and great fondness/love for the subject. Perhaps this could be adapted into a lovely BBC production, as its got all the elements (period-piece, mystery, love, good music) but it hangs together a touch awkwardly. A recommend, but with a bit of a warning.

I received an ecopy from the publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Nov 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebook-search
A fascinating tale, based on real characters and real events. Some of the best bits are fiction - the Nazi committee, the Savoy Hotel - but though this is not a great novel, its power is in the music and musicians it introduces us to. I've bought the [widely recommended] Kremer recording of the concerto, and for background reading - and listening - would highly recommend The Right Notes: ...more
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As the title suggests, this certainly is one hell of a strange story. It’s also quite captivating and beautifully written – I had to abandon my other two reads (also historical fiction set in a similar period) to see this one through to the end.

The novel is a skillful re-imagination of historical events, telling the story of the rediscovery of the last work of Robert Schumann (the violin concerto in D minor) from the night it came to the attention of renowned Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Aranyi i
Beth Younge
This book is not as good as Odette which was a shame as I really enjoyed that. The element of mystery and fantasy was there but it was not as refined or as good. The premise was interesting and it needed a little bit more work for it to be fully functional for me.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Kim Russell
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An unusual insight into the world of classical music

I enjoyed this unusual book immensely and loved the believable characters. It's not often you find a story that combines history and music in such a refreshing way.
Margaret Wichorek
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent novel about the discovery of a Violin Concerto by Robert Schumann that was discovered back in the 1930's. based on a true story.
Rachel Hutton macdonald
Aug 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really interesting story, based on real events. Compelling reading, and beautifully told.
Cathy Ryan
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ghost Variations is created from real people and true events which occurred during their lives; history dramatised into a rich and enchanting narrative.

Jelly d’Arányi, the central character, is a renowned Hungarian violinist, living in 1930s London with her sister, Adila and her family. Jelly has been the muse for several famous composers and is dedicated to her music, to the exclusion of her personal life, especially since she lost the man she loved at the Battle of the Somme during WWI. The si
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Erica Sipes
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Annette Smith
Apr 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
Loved the revaluation at the end that the book is in fact based on a true story.
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John Paul
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Tiffany Rose
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ghost Variations by Jessica Duchen is wonderfully written. I loved the mystery of this historical book. I found it hard to put down. This book combined three of my favorite things, mystery, history, and music. There was also a bit of paranormal. I loved this book.

Iwould like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion of it.
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William Geiler
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Jessica was born in London. After studying at Cambridge, she worked as an editor in music publishing and magazines for ten years. She was a music critic for The Independent from 2004 to 2016.

Her latest novel 'Immortal' tells the (probably) true story behind Beethoven's famous 'Immortal Beloved' letter, exploring a tragic secret that was long concealed. "A revelation" (Daniel Hope, president of the

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