The Song Before It Is Sung by Justin Cartwright

Enough moments of sheer suspense and bravado to be accessible to pretty much anyone.

Book Review by CC Mapletoft | 12 Mar 2007
Book title: The Song Before It Is Sung
Author: Justin Cartwright
After the runaway success of The Promise of Happiness, South African born novelist Justin Cartwright follows up with what might be one of the defining books of the year. Cartwright focuses on the semi-fictional narrative of Elya Mendel (based on a real-life Oxford don) whose friendship with Count Von Gottberg (again based on a real person) progresses through the years leading up to the Second World War, culminating in the execution of Gottberg in 1944. The main account is interwoven with that of Conrad, the young researcher who is investigating Mendel's papers and is contending with a failed marriage to boot. The similarities between Gottberg and Conrad's own life are cleverly interspersed with discourses on the nature of love, friendship, history and existence. So, do not pick up this book expecting a comical read; instead anticipate something rather more philosophical, and often challenging. This is not just a novel that tries its damnedest to be highbrow - it has enough moments of sheer suspense and bravado to be accessible to pretty much anyone. Dwelling on the issue of how Nazism rose to the heights it did in such a 'civilised' part of Europe, Cartwright's elegiac novel addresses issues so important they cannot be ignored. Without being flippant, it is not merely a dry book about WW2 and the countless millions it destroyed in its wake. What makes the difference is that readers will care about the characters as if they were friends and family. Cartwright's prose and character construction make the novel that much more personal. [CC Mapletoft]
Out Now. Published by Bloomsbury. Cover Price £16.99 hardback.