AND AFTER THE FIRE
On as grand a scale as any Bach masterpiece, Belfer’s novel explores the composer’s religious music and its effect on two women living 300 years apart, seamlessly weaving in the threads of several plotlines and different time periods. She portrays each story with care, even turning the music into a key character. Powerfully and emotionally written, the tale resonates because of its fast pace and Belfer’s ability to bring the large theme of “doing the right thing” to readers. A fascinating, compelling read.
In the last days of WWII, American soldier Henry Sachs finds a piece of music in a seemingly abandoned German home. The events of that day haunt him until his death, when his niece, Susanna Kessler, inherits his belongings. Susanna is healing from the rape that destroyed her marriage and finding Bach’s “autograph” gives her a new purpose: locating the original owners of the manuscript. Her quest sends her to music expert Daniel Erhardt, a man struggling with his own demons. In 1783, Sara Itzig Levy is a beautiful, accomplished young woman and a student of Bach’s son. On the eve of her wedding, he presents her with several musical pieces, among them a highly anti-Semitic cantata. Sara knows she is to safeguard the inflammatory work from those who would use it against the Jews. (HARPER, May, 464 pp., $26.99)