Moses Froben was born in a small Swiss village to a deaf-mute mother. Together they lived in the belfry of the church, where his mother rang the bells. After a terrifying encounter with his father, Moses is dumped in the river and left for dead. He is rescued by two monks, Nicolai and Remus, who bring him back with them to the abbey at St. Gallen, where he is made part of the boys’ choir thanks to his amazing, but untrained, musical talent. The other boys reject him utterly, and to make matters worse, the choirmaster secretly has him castrated in an effort to preserve his stunning talent and voice forever. Moses does not tell anyone what has happened to him, and for many years no one suspects. Eventually the truth is found out, and he loses everything. Rather than wallow in grief, Moses runs away to Vienna, where his life takes a turn for the better after the famous castrato Guadagni takes an interest in him. As the premier of Gluck’s new opera “Orfeo ed Euridice” nears, Moses has the chance to regain much of what he had lost, but only if he is brave enough to not look back.
This is the sort of historical novel that I adore: detailed, sprawling, lush, slightly melodramatic, and full of history. I was engrossed from the moment I picked it up, seduced by the gorgeous language and fascinating story. There is a blurb on the front of the book that compares it to Perfume, which is not inaccurate; music and sound are described in such a way that Süskind’s influence is very clear. Having been to St. Gallen and Vienna, it was even easier to lose myself in the book. I’ve requested a recording of the 1762 version of Gluck’s “Orfeo ed Euridice,” so I can hear what was being described, and then read the descriptions again.
It’s a beautiful book.
Richard Harvell’s site
Source: borrowed from library