Rhapsody is a historical novel set in the 1920's - 1930's. It tells the story of Kay Swift, a pianist who is married to banker James Warburg when she meets and falls in love with composer George Gershwin.
I wanted to read this novel because I love Gershwin's music and was curious about a book exploring his life. I also find the time period and setting (primarily New York City) intriguing.
This read started slowly for me as it filled in Kay's backstory. It picked up speed when she met Jimmy (James Warburg), and especially when George Gershwin entered the picture. By that point I was thoroughly engrossed in the storytelling and sat and read the rest of the book in an afternoon. I wanted to know what happened next!
The author does a wonderful job at setting the scene with music details, famous friends (like Dorothy Parker and Adele Astaire), and descriptions of the entertainment world and society life in the 1920's. There are vivid scenes like:
"The Century Theatre was closed to the public during the day. But the doorman recognized Jimmy, whose family had financed construction of the building, and the elevator operator whisked them up in his polished-brass cage to the enclosed portion of the Roof Garden Pavilion, where a disk was spinning on the Victrola while maintenance employees swept the floor and set tables. Eddie Cantor, backed by an orchestra, sang— Every lyric writer since the world began Has put in overtime in raves about the moon. And when the animals descended from the Ark They sang a song that rhymed with June And tune and spoon. Apart from the restaurant staff and the invisible singer and his orchestra, Jimmy and Katharine had the spacious glass room to themselves. As they proceeded to a table at the far end of the room, Katharine wondered whether Jimmy had not prearranged the entire scene, including the music. It all seemed too picturesque and dreamlike to be entirely spontaneous" (eBook location 1009).
Kay is a complex character - ambitious in a time when this was not encouraged for women, married to one man but in love/obsessed with another. I especially loved the detail of Kay reading The Great Gatsby and seeing some parallels between her fascination with Gershwin and Jay Gatsby's obsession with Daisy Buchanan.
One of the hallmarks of a good historical novel for me is learning more about historic figures or a different time period. Rhapsody provides a unique glimpse at NYC in the 1920's and Gershwin's life - both personal life and his artistry and work.
I enjoyed Rhapsody and recommend it for fans of historical fiction, especially for anyone interested in music, the 1920's - 1930's, old New York, and the life of George Gershwin.
One evening in 1924, Katharine “Kay” Swift—the restless but loyal society wife of wealthy banker James Warburg and a serious pianist who longs for recognition—attends a concert. The piece: Rhapsody in Blue. The composer: a brilliant, elusive young musical genius named George Gershwin.
Kay is transfixed, helpless to resist the magnetic pull of George’s talent, charm, and swagger. Their ten-year love affair, complicated by her conflicted loyalty to her husband and the twists and turns of her own musical career, ends only with George’s death from a brain tumor at the age of thirty-eight.
Set in Jazz Age New York City, this stunning work of fiction, for fans of The Paris Wife and Loving Frank, explores the timeless bond between two brilliant, strong-willed artists. George Gershwin left behind not just a body of work unmatched in popular musical history, but a woman who loved him with all her heart, knowing all the while that he belonged not to her, but to the world.
Mitchell James Kaplan graduated with honors from Yale University, where he won the Paine Memorial Prize for Best Long-Form Senior Essay submitted to the English Department. His first mentor was the author William Styron.
After college, Kaplan lived in Paris, France, where he worked as a translator, then in Southern California, where he worked as a screenwriter and in film production.
He lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with his family and two cats.
We have 2 paperback copies of Rhapsody by Mitchell James Kaplan up for grabs!
The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on March 12th. You must be 18 or older to enter.