Gifted pianist Bess Stallone loves classical music. In fact, music is the center of her lower-class Long Island existence. She practices on a battered piano for as long as her abusive father will allow and eventually wins a spot at The Juilliard School in New York. Unfortunately, despite her talent, she suffers from severe stage fright.

Nothing can overcome her fear and permit her to share her talent. When she meets David Montagnier, a celebrated musician who needs to find a partner for two piano concerts, the two make beautiful music together.

But these stars are tragically love-crossed in Sally Mandel's flawlessly crafted, fully developed first-person narration. Although her era, her background and the outcome of her tenacious hold on life are uniquely hers, Bess Stallone is a voice as vivid, as real, as memorable as Alice Walker's Celie or Virginia Wolfe's Mrs. Dalloway. (Apr., 288 pp., $23.95)

Reviewed by: 
Gerry Benninger