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Christmas Eve is usually a time of celebration for Theresa's family, but all merriment is put to a stop when her father, a talented violinist, is found dead. When she discovers a strange gold pendant on her father's body, she begins to wonder if he may have been murdered. To help support her family financially, Theresa takes up a job as a copyist for her godfather, composer Franz Josef Hayden, a decision that shocks her mother who would prefer to see her married off to a wealthy man. With her life spinning out of control, can Theresa find the answers to her father's death, and to her future?

Susanne Dunlap is an author that I've been meaning to try out for a while now. I decided to read The Musician's Daughter due to the musical themes and murder mystery plotline. Unfortunately, I found myself feeling conflicted about the results. On one hand, I didn't have any issues with the actual writing. In fact, certain chapters, like the one where Theresa discovers her father's body, possess great atmosphere. It's also clear that the author has a background in music, as the sequences that focus on music and performance felt very authentic. But despite these strengths, I often felt that in other areas such as characterization, setting, and romance, that The Musician's Daughter didn't quite hit it's mark.

There were a lot of elements in The Musician's Daughter that reminded me of previous historical fiction novels that I have read, mainly Louise Marley's The Glass Harmonica. Unfortunately The Glass Harmonica accomplished so many of these elements so well that The Musician's Daughter often felt second rate by comparison. This is felt in characterization. I didn't have too many issues with the protagonist, but felt the secondary cast came off as a little flat. The Musician's Daughter may have had nice sections that focused on music or the lovely clothes Theresa came to wear, but as a whole it lacked the strong sense of place that I desire from a work of historical fiction. But the novel's largest issue by far is the romantic storyline, which felt awkwardly shoehorned in. We know that Theresa has feelings for a character, but he felt so undeveloped that it's hard to figure out where these feelings come from. Throughout the novel, this love story never developed in a satisfying way, which makes the publisher's decision to highlight it on both the back and front cover confusing. I often found myself wishing that the author had either taken a little time to nurture this storyline more, or had left it out all together.

Although The Musician's Daughter is far from a disaster, I had too many issues with it to truly call it enjoyable. As a result, I wouldn't recommend this to other fans of young adult historical fiction.

Rating: three stars
Length: 322 pages
Source: paperbackswap
Other books I've read by this author: this is my first

Next I will be reviewing Chime by Franny Billingsley

xposted to temporaryworlds, bookish, and goodreads


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 17th, 2012 02:57 am (UTC)
I've read this and her Anastasia book and I wasn't terribly impressed with either. I liked them okay (I actually like historical fiction despite not reading much of it), but I didn't find these that wonderful. It's a pity because I think they have the potential. But they just don't go as far as I'd like them to, I guess? There's something that stops me from being fully drawn into the book and the characters. I put them down and remember them vaguely because of the historical period, but not really because of how the characters were portrayed. And I get that at least in the Anastasia one (I read that one about a month ago, unlike this one that I read over a year ago), she is a well-known historical figure so there's some restraint in regards to her character, but so many authors manage to make historical figures come to life in their books and these books just don't.
Apr. 17th, 2012 11:12 am (UTC)
"But they just don't go as far as I'd like them to, I guess?"

I agree with you here, which is a real shame because so many of her books have interesting ideas behind them, it just looks like they're not executed all that well.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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