Review: The Woman in the Moonlight

The Woman in the Moonlight by Patricia Morrisroe

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“The Woman in the Moonlight” is an enjoyable read, if you are an admirer of Beethoven. It is a fictional account of one of the candidates for Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved,” though Morrisroe does not make that the center of her narrative. Rather, she weaves a fictionalized relationship out of historical events between Julie Guicciardi, the woman to whom his “Moonlight” sonata was dedicated (hence the title) and Beethoven, from their first meeting until his death. The strength of her writing is her characters, which are sharply drawn and believable in the mostly aristocratic setting of the story. Julie as she paints her is a flawed but likeable character, through whom we are given the author’s take on the private life of Beethoven, but also the journeys and perils of an aristocratic woman of that revolutionary age. However, Morrisroe has a habit of delivering historical exposition by directly addressing her readers, which comes off as if she is lecturing from a podium, as when she has Julie (the novel is told from her perspective) comment on Schindler’s character, as if involved in some sort of historiographical debate. Her afterword was helpful, detailing her sources, but I was astounded to find she included a bibliography at the end of her novel, as if this was a work of scholarship. This struck me as pretentious, but then her bio says she was a “contributing editor at New York magazine,” which possibly elucidates the pretentiousness. Nonetheless, her love for Beethoven shines through, and if you want a well crafted, fictionalized narrative to read at the beach, this is a book you will enjoy. If not, you should probably find another novel to read on vacation.

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