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Rita Charbonnier ::: Reader Comments - Mozart's sister

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Marie-Noëlle Terrisse, journalist

I just finished reading, with great enthusiasm and passion, the French version of “Mozart’s Sister”… Having read some biographies of Mozart I knew something about Nannerl but you’ve managed to transform her into a fascinating and terribly human character. Even if I knew what was going to happen in the end I was in so much suspense while reading the book, almost like it was a mystery story! Furthermore the translation by François Maspero is perfect, you totally forget that it is a translation… In a word, chapeau!!

 

Federico Bailo
Italy

Dear Rita,
I liked a lot “Mozart’s Sister”!
I’m a great lover of Mozart and in your novel I found so many old friends. I was well informed about Leopold Mozart’s strength of character but honestly I never saw Nannerl Mozart as you describe her.
I read many Mozart biographies—Paumgartner, Solomon, Robbins Landon, and others—but none of these historians succeeded in giving me such intense and likely feelings about this woman, who was forced to live in her brother’s shadow—and under her father’s black cape.
It is true that your story is fictional, but in the end I think Nannerl Mozart’s life was exactly like the one you describe, and for the reasons you tell.
When I finished reading, a question came to my mind: if Nannerl had been an only child, what would her father have done with her musical career? I think he would have made a concert player of her, and then would have found a good husband for her: a Kapellmeister, so as to favour his own career. Leopold was this kind of man…
Happy holydays Rita and thanks for the beautiful story you have given us.
I am full of admiration.

 

Marvel
Redding, CA

I loved Mozart’s Sister. I could not put it down. Can’t wait for the next book to be in English. The book passionately touched me. The humor in it is great. It inspired in me a desire to sing again and to learn more about Mozart’s music. Thank you.
Marvel

 

Robby Farruggia
New York

Cara Signora Charbonnier,
Last year, as I was parading through my local Barnes and Noble, I happened to glance upon a book called Mozart’s Sister. The title instantly caught my eye, both my parents being oustanding Mozart fans. My initial thought was: “Mozart had a sister?” I have to admit, I was quite skeptical at first. I was afraid that a person’s life so intricately woven into music could not be given justice through the eyes of an author who simply appreciated music. When I flipped to the author blurb at the back, I could not hold back my shocked enthusiasm, having seen that you were born in Italy, studied opera and piano, and also were a former musical theatre actress. Suddenly, I thought, “Ok… this isn’t just some snob-nosed writer attending an opera thinking she knows it all… she’s lived through it: the hardships, the experience of performing… maybe I should give this a try.”
From the first letter from Armand, I was hooked. I am jealous of the way you are able to tie in music with your writing, and you description of the passion one feels when performing. It is often difficult to describe the joy I get from performing, and your book’s descriptions of Nannerl’s longing for the violin and for music in general brings tears to my eyes. As like most people in the business, I have also suffered limitations I had no control over, and you portray perfectly the duality of the business: joy and rejection. Your book not only introduced me to an incredible historical character, but made me reflect upon my own life and passions as well, making it a favorite among my collection of books.
I cannot thank you enough for creating such an incredible piece of literature and I look forward to reading your future novels.
Best, Roberto

 

Lucia
Rome, Italy

My dear Rita, I am writing to you and feel like Nannerl as I do so because I’m using a pen and paper. I am so like her in real life too, but it was you who managed to reveal me to myself through “Mozart’s Sister”. Your love for her weaknesses, fears and contradictions seemed to extend itself to me as well. That’s why I want to say thank you, Rita. Thanks to you I can see more clearly who I am, who I was and who I am going to be. I hope you write something else and that you do it with the same kind of sensitivity that brought Nannerl to life … And me. I feel like one of your creations now. With admiration, Lucia.

 

Fabio Valenza, composer and arranger

Dear Rita, I read your book last year when my brother bought it for me as a 37th birthday present. I loved it and found it really moving. I wanted to complement you on your novel because it is such an enjoyable read. It left me with a slight feeling of sadness though. It would be great if someone turned it into a film.

 

André de Graaf
The Netherlands

Hello Rita, I just read your beautiful and illusive book. I like to read biographical books about music, but yours is very special, I admit. It’s not only about music, but very human, indeed. While reading I felt very much sympathy for Nannerl. She evoked my love, more than her brother whose music I love so much. I thank you very much for it. I enjoyed it very much.

 

Sara, student
Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy

I just finished reading your book… a bit late, I admit. I wish I had done it before! It’s absolutely sensational! And I say that as a great Mozart fan—as someone who was happy to finally find a sort of profile for that mysterious woman “Mozart’s sister”. I always wanted to learn more about her. I have to thank you. Seriously, thank you Rita. Not only because you wrote a marvellous novel—not only because you gave dignity to a woman who history had coldly neglected. Much more than that. You made me understand that you should never take anything for granted—and that you should always work to make your dreams come true.

 

Mirella Patzer, historical fiction author
Alberta, Canada

Mozart’s Sister by Rita Charbonnier is a heartwrenching tale of great genius denied. It tells of great triumph and equally great descent and the strength of one woman, Nannerl, to overcome the pain of living her life in the shadow of her brother. Rita Charbonnier brings to life the brilliance of the 18th century with its tight social expectations, sex scandals, and brilliant personages. Her well honed theatrical and musical background is evident in the spectacular descriptions of the music and composition characteristic of Wolfgang Mozart. It is a compelling read, not only for those who love classical music, but for those who love sweeping historical tales of strong women. Brava Rita! Encore! Encore!

 

Sarah Ford
Casselberry, Florida

Dear Rita, I loooooooved MOZART’S SISTER! You are a great storyteller. There wasn’t a slow part of the book—I had to read the last 252 pages in one day to get it done for book club, and I am grateful to you for the fact that it was so riveting. Today, I read that the Catholic church is excommunicating women who are ordained as priests. It’s a lot easier to belittle women than face up to their potential. All I can think of is your book and the fact that you happen to reside in Rome.

 

Chris from the band Krisinger
El Paso, Texas

Rita—I finished reading “Mozart’s Sister” last night and just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed it immensely. You, my dear, are an incredibly gifted writer. I’m afraid I’ve scribbled all over your book, marking countless lines and passages that moved me in one way or another, but within my rather humble library of favorite works a book thoroughly marked up is the surest indicator of a book that surely moved me. You have reminded me of why some of us end up writing and why most of us, quite wisely, move on to do other things. The historical research to write the book must have been quite exhaustive (and historical works are what I mostly read), and yet not once did it ever become tedious or loose it’s readability as a literary novel. Your command of language and your ability to describe the complexity of human emotion involved within this story is astonishing and inspiring. I could write a novel responding to your novel, but never could I begin to approach your gift for written expression. For now, I just wanted you to know that I’ve discovered a new favorite author of mine, and her name is Rita Charbonnier. So please tell! What’s next!? I can’t wait!

 

Elana, artist
Mercer Island, Washington

I just finished your book. IT IS SO INCREDIBLE. WELL DONE.
As we know, the mark of a good book is how well it manages to engage the reader’s emotions.
Well, it definitively engaged mine!!!!
Sad, mad, happy, feeling sorry for Nannerl. You engaged my attention as well as my emotions.
Such skill you have to spin off such a tale based only on letters. Thanks for the opportunity.

 

Monyka89

I read your stupendous novel in 1 go!! It’s really fantastic!! I’d like 2 be an author and write a book like yours, it would be wicked! I’ve had a passion for Mozart since I studied music at school and it’s grown reading your book… I resemble Nannerl in the worst ways… faced with difficulties I lose heart like her and close in on myself… thanks for two intense days of reading!! You’re great!!

 

From a post on a personal blog

I have changed nickname, now it’s Nannerl, Mozart’s sister, it all started when I read Rita Charbonnier’s book, which literally changed me because now I’ve started listening to classical music. Not that it’s so strange, given that I grew up with parents who liked old-fashioned culture. They were always taking me to exhibitions which I hated, even if I’ve got no problem going alone, in fact I like to sit and stare at a painting, it’s relaxing. Now I reckon I’ll post you the plot of the book. I recommend it, although it’s historical there are points about Nannerl’s adolescence which I think are really beautiful, because behaviour was the same then although times were different. Well, this is the plot, now I’m tired so I’m off.

 

Ambra
Milan, Italy

I bow to your novel.
I’d hardly finished it when I threw myself at the Internet to look for more on Nannerl… and here I am. I love Mozart… I always have! And from today I love his sister too.
A heartfelt thank you for bringing me much more than the vision of an image, the sound of a word, the expression of a feeling…
There is such tender unity in this book…
Thank you.

 

Cinzia
Turin, Italy

I ask myself how much of you there is in the fantastic character that I met in your book. I am a nurse, I work on a psychiatric ward and in my job I very often come across women who resemble the complex and splendid Nannerl. For myself, I have also had a complicated life, with a father who was rather similar to Leopold… I must admit that, in some passages, I hated him, I wept for this blinded man, and I wanted to shake him even through the pages of a book…

 

Ilaria
Genoa, Italy

On a beautiful day in February my mother and I went to our favourite bookshop, where they know me well. They immediately welcomed me but told me that the books I had ordered were not in yet. I looked about me and suddenly noticed a book with a nice cover that had a look of the eighteenth century: “Mozart’s Sister”. Yes, I knew Nannerl. I have played the piano since I was six years old. I was so small when I began that I could hardly stretch to a fifth or a sixth either.
“I’d like this one.”
“It’s the author’s first published book.”
We paid and went to the beach. I ran over the rocks to my favourite place, right next to the sea, and started to read.
At that moment I seemed to hear Nannerl’s voice, obviously invented by me but it was as if I had heard it. I devoured a hundred or so pages, with the waves in the background. It was wonderful, beautiful, stupendous. I really don’t know how to describe it.
So, the reason for this email is to say THANK YOU.
Thank you for giving me, and certainly others too, such an intense experience.

 

Italo Lupi
Schio, Vicenza, Italy

Dear Rita, well done: a good book, enjoyable, flowing, very real!
Two things seem clear: that the writer is a woman, and also a musician.
It could happen again today. How many geniuses take second place when they have the misfortune of having a brother in the family… who is a greater genius then they are and male?
“You must earn money giving lessons to the wealthy to pay for our trips to Italy.” Leopold, the father, is made out to be unpleasant and his wife Anna Maria a weak woman.
Nannerl is the re-evaluated heroine. The description of her “first time” in love is exquisite!
She was capable of helping her brother when he was a child, of loving him, dedicating herself to him, breaking off every contact with music for many long years so as not think of him and her father (which is understandable in the end!), renewing links with her family when they were needed and cataloguing her brother’s work that otherwise, in the hands of his wife – as pearls before swine – would now be who knows where…

 

Cinzia Bomoll, writer and director

Rita, your novel is tremendous, I am reading it and loving it so much. It is written with masterly skill and I already know that I won’t want to finish it, because I’ll want to go on enjoying it as long as possible. It is a story that I’d like to see made into a film…

 

Antonella Grassi, script writer
Rome, Italy

I’ve started reading your novel. I’m about half-way through and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve already promised my mother that she can read it as soon as I’ve finished.
I like the fullness of the writing, the way that the letters alternate with life events, the delicate approach to the theme. I like it that the characters emerge bit by bit, intriguing the reader who has been wondering from the beginning: what happened to the sensitive Nannerl Mozart? How did she live? How much did she have to go through in a century when a woman was considered as a charming little domestic animal, and at best an instrument whose sole job was to run to the aid of and advance the happiness of a man? Just as you say from the start in the initial quote.
I’m a keen reader. I must have read several hundred novels. I only need to read the first lines to know which will live up to their promise. And yours is one that does.

 

Claudio Ferrarini, flautist and academic teacher
Parma, Italy

Rita, you have changed the way I think about Mozart. I always had an imagine of him as the victim of his own art. But there are other ways of looking at it. Your novel showed me a picture of how it is possible to feel bad when a person does everything they can to crush you with their talent, and how it is difficult to win over one’s own fears. In short you have altered my image of Mozart. Now I see him as a much more worldly individual. The sense of the sublime, the eternal has been chased from my mind and given place, simply, to a man with plenty of problems.
It certainly couldn’t be easy for a woman to make her way in the world of music, or in composition. I don’t think that Mozart had greater talent than his sister. Today Nannerl’s presumed inferiority could well be called diversity. Not every great composer is also a great performer: this is the key to diversity. Today she would be a virtuoso of the keyboard, without complexes.

 

Leonardo
Pisa, Italy

I am sincerely and profoundly admiring. You deserve every success. I find your writing to be of a quality well above the ordinary, but there is also the interest in the story, the curiosity to see how it ends. And then the structure and the form of the book are original. You also get the sensation that it is a subject taking up around 300 pages that is so dense that, if you wanted to, you could develop it into an 800 page nineteenth century novel. But then I suppose it wouldn’t sell.

 

Daniela Biganzoli
Milan, Italy

Dear Rita, I read your book and thought it was great.
I wanted to enjoy it during the holidays, listening to Mozart’s music in the background, which I love. I had priceless hours in the company of the book and music together, and I was often possessed by a deep sensation that I was one and the same as your Nannerl.
Not to listen to our inclinations, not to follow them with all our strength, not to pay attention to the deepest part of our heart makes us die little by little, just as was happening to the character. But music can help us, with its intrinsic capacity to bring our deepest feelings and emotions to the surface and give us the strength to carry out our plans.
I don’t have the pleasure of knowing you personally but through the pages of your book I perceive you to be a very sensitive person who is mindful of the suffering of others and capable of a strong empathy.

 

Elena Lopez
Cremona, Italy

Some months back my brother, who is a music-lover, gave me your book. Now I’ve started to read it, in fact I’m devouring it, because I think it’s a beautiful book as it respects the period in which it takes place and above all perfectly reflects the – I would say – miserable condition of being a woman in those days.
Thanks to you, and to other authors who write about “real” roles played by women in past times, now we know the importance of certain female figures that until today have been lost to the dark pages of history.
Your book is delightful and I congratulate you on it being a good read, but most of all for the idea of making a character like Nannerl known to the greater public.

 

Guja
Milan, Italy

Thanks for bringing to light a character who had finished in oblivion. I’m so grateful to you… for a long time I felt like Nannerl, I nearly abandoned music for ever, but then I managed to fight back and now music is my oxygen.
Your book was one more reason not to give up. Thanks.

 

Giuliano
Crotone, Italy

Hi Rita, I’ve got to page 183 of your novel, I wanted to say well done for the fantastic bit about Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 9 (KV 271). For those who haven’t read it yet, I certainly won’t reveal the particular event in the story that the piece is linked to, but I can tell you that I was really moved, it took me back in time to when I listened to it for the first time instantaneously making me realise that it was music to my ears and heart… It was the first of Mozart’s piano concertos that I liked immediately, at the dawn of my Mozartian passion, despite the fact that I had already heard KV 467 in C major, which is perhaps more famous than the “Jeunehomme”. It had an immediate effect on me, like a splendid revelation of sound.
Thanks for the emotional experience you have given me (us).

 

Valeria
Biella, Piedmont, Italy

I came across your book by chance, in the typical mega supermarket where you find everything. It is thrilling. Rita, you have without a shadow of a doubt found your second “greatest fan”, after your friend Roberta, whom you cite in the Acknowledgements [of the Italian edition]. Well done, I hope to read another novel by you soon. In the meantime I will follow your career as scriptwriter and journalist with interest.

 

Alessandra
Rome, Italy

I am reading your book and am hugely enjoying it. Unfortunately I can almost only read it on the tram, on the way to work and back home, and I often miss my stop because I don’t want to stop reading! The words flow like the notes of Mozart’s music! Really great! Congratulations!

 

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