Synopses & Reviews
In the tradition of Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife
and Laura Moriarty’s The Chaperone
comes a sweeping historical love story and a portrait of an age. Vienna Nocturne
is a deeply moving debut novel that brings to life two extraordinary figures—a thirty-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and a young English soprano, Anna Storace, who was his muse—in prose as spirited, timeless, and touching as Mozart’s greatest compositions.
In late-eighteenth-century London, a young girl takes her first singing lessons with a mysterious castrato in exile. Her life is forever changed. Having learned everything he can teach her, Anna leaves behind all the security and familiarity of home and journeys to Naples and Venice to struggle and triumph in Italy’s greatest opera houses. Only sixteen, she finds herself in an intoxicating world of theaters, nobility, and vice, overwhelmed by her newfound freedom and fame. Her first bitter experience of love and heartbreak inevitably follows.
Within a few years, Anna is invited to sing in Vienna, the City of Music, by the emperor himself. There, in a teasing game of theft and play, Anna first meets Mozart, a young virtuoso pianist and striving, prodigiously talented composer. They are matched in intellect and talent, and an immediate and undeniable charge occurs between the two, despite both being married to others.
As her star rises in Vienna and her personal life deteriorates, Anna experiences an ultimate crisis. During this trying time, her only light is Mozart: his energy, his determination for her, and his art. She, in turn, becomes his hope and inspiration, and his joy, as he writes for her some of his most exquisite and enduring arias—music that will live on as his masterworks.
Rich in historical detail and beautifully wrought by Vivien Shotwell, an author who is herself an opera singer, Vienna Nocturne is a dramatic tour de force of a woman’s struggle to find love and fame in an eighteenth-century world that controls and limits her at every turn.
Advance praise for Vienna Nocturne
“You don’t have to be an opera buff to fall deep into Vienna Nocturne. Vivien Shotwell catapults you straight into the eighteenth century with abundant, vivid detail. I found Anna Storace’s journey from prodigy to prima donna an irresistible tale.”—Nancy Horan, author of Loving Frank and Under the Wide and Starry Sky
“Passionate and yet precise, dense with feeling yet as clean as a bird in flight: This novel emulates Mozart’s music even as it beautifully imagines his love for a memorable singer. What an excellent debut!”—Andrea Barrett, National Book Award–winning author of Archangel and Ship Fever
“Vienna Nocturne is as finely intelligent as it is lushly romantic, and beautifully renders how much music can convey, even when it’s hardly the only expressive tool lovers have at hand. Very few novels have expressed as persuasively how it feels to be taken up by the kind of passions that, despite everything, can make a soul huge with life and joy.”—Jim Shepard, author of National Book Award finalist Like You’d Understand, Anyway
“Vivien Shotwell has written a novel that, like her heroine, the singer Anna Storace, is brilliant, warm, irresistible, and infinitely moving. Her descriptions of music, of her characters, of Venice and Vienna are so vivid and so richly compelling that I was amazed to look up from these pages and discover that I was still in Massachusetts.”—Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street and The Flight of Gemma Hardy
"With her debut novel, classically trained singer Shotwell channels real life English-born soprano Anna Storace, a prodigy whose family eventually moves to the continent to further her career. Shotwell takes exuberant liberties with her teenage superstar, from Anna's voice training, beginning at age 11, by castrato Venanzio Rauzzini, to her early career in Milan and Venice where the bold teenager embarks on a secret affair with randy 'primo buffo' star Francesco Benucci and her sponsorship by the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II in Vienna. It's 1783, Wolfgang Mozart is the toast of the town, and when the married composer meets Anna, the attraction is instant and undeniable. Theirs is a lush, passionate love story and, in Shotwell's capable hands, an astutely contemporary reflection on ambition, theater, and the politics of celebrity. Along the way, Anna will endure an abusive marriage to violinist John Fisher, who's been banned from Vienna for his brutality. She will also suffer the loss of her infant daughter (conceived with Benucci), and a near-career ending problem with her voice. Shotwell delivers a lyrical, youthful tale of love and loss set in the 18th century, but keeps it crisply modern with a blend of happy and tragic endings. The effort hits all the right notes, even for readers lacking any knowledge of opera." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Vivien Shotwell is a classically trained singer with degrees from Williams College, the Yale School of Music, and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was an Iowa Arts Fellow. As an undergraduate voice student at Williams, Shotwell first sang the beautiful aria “Non temer, amato bene” (“Don’t fear, greatly beloved”), which Mozart wrote for and performed with the young soprano Anna Storace, and knew she had to tell their story. A daughter of independent booksellers, Shotwell was born in Colorado, raised in Nova Scotia, and now divides her time between Halifax, Nova Scotia, and New Haven, Connecticut. This is her first novel.