The Song Before It Is Sung
By Justin Cartwright
(Bloomsbury USA, Hardcover, 9781596912687, 288pp.)
Publication Date: July 10, 2007
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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On July 20, 1944, Adolf Hitler narrowly escaped an assassination attempt. He had the main conspirators brutally strung up on meat hooks. Among the executed was Axel von Gottberg, a German Rhodes Scholar at Oxford who returned home in 1934, to the dismay of his Oxford friends, particularly Elya Mendel.
Sixty years later, Elya, now a distinguished professor, leaves behind a collection of papers and letters to a former student, Conrad Senior, and asks him to find out the truth about Axel, whom he had condemned as a Nazi sympathizer. But the more Conrad tries to uncover the truth, the more complex he finds the relationship between the two friends, especially in their involvement with two beautiful English cousins. As Conrad investigates obsessively, his own life comes apart. Weaving darkly through these complex stories is an infamous film of Axel's execution; a film which Conrad is desperate to find, for reasons he can barely understand himself.
Wonderfully written--and based on true events--The Song Before It Is Sung is a novel of profound and sensitive insight into the human condition, spanning Oxford in the 1930s, prewar Prussia, and contemporary Britain and surpassing all of Cartwright's previous works in its scope and ambition.
Justin Cartwright is the author of In Every Face I Meet, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and won the Commonwealth Writer's Prize; Leading the Cheers, which won the Whitbread; White Lightning, which was shortlisted for the 2002 Whitbread; and, most recently, The Promise of Happiness, which won the 2005 Hawthornden Prize and the South African Sunday Times Fiction Award, forthcoming this spring as a paperback. He was born in South Africa but has lived all his adult life, since graduating from Oxford, in London.
"A thought-provoking….at times heartbreaking roman-a-clef…"--The Denver Post
"Sensitive and elegiac….give yourself a treat and read it."--Boston Globe“This tour de force explores the "paper-thin divide between idealism and delusion," while resonating on many levels. Sure to reward any reader concerned with the issues of that appalling time”—Library Journal "A quiet masterpiece. Cartwright has written that rare thing, a novel of ideas intricately and propulsively plotted, deeply humane, elegantly readable."--Los Angeles Times Book Review "Mr. Cartwright's impressive achievement lies in his ability to penetrate beyond easy moral certitudes, to evoke the recent past and, not least, to make the reader understand just how much was at stake back then."--Wall St. Journal
"It would be a disservice to this amazing book to leave the impression that it is a war story. What Cartwright has really written is a love story: love in the New Testament sense of there being no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend."--National Post (Canada)
"Magnificent….this novel surely places Cartwright in the company of the finest English novelists at work today"--Seattle Times
"This is a deeply moving and well-researched work from a first-class writer."--Washington Times
"a meditation on loyalty and fate that spans the 20th century... The novel gets its momentum from a rapid alternation between the present and the past"-New York Times Book Review
"a multilayered work, challenging us to ask ourselves how well we know our fellow human beings, especially those closest to us."--Bookpage
"…darkly effective….greatly entice readers’ interest on political, historical, and intellectual levels."—Booklist, Starred review
Praise for Justin Cartwright:
“[Belongs] alongside Ian McEwan, Martin Amis and Kazuo Ishiguro.”—New York Times Book Review