Book: The Glass Harmonica

Title: The Glass Harmonica
Author: Louise Marley
Genre: Paranormal Historical Fiction
Length: 369 pgs

Summary: The year is 2018 and Erin is the premiere virtuosa on the glass harmonica, an instrument that, over the centuries, has been known to make its player and select members of the audience go mad. Though she publicly denies these rumors, secretly she is terrified they are true once she starts to see visions of a girl who does not exist.

The year is 1761 and Eilish Eam, an Irish orphan, has been plucked from her unlucky existence to play Benjamin Franklin’s new invention: the glass armonica.

pg 116 – It was the terror that lurked in [Erin’s] nightmares, that stalked her when she was weakest, most vulnerably. It was the fear that made her snap answers to stupid questions, made her impatient and angry at the probing and pushing of interviewers and reporters and historians. She was afraid. She wasn’t afraid of her wraith, of ghosts or visions or manifestations. What she feared was that, like her predecessors, like the ancestral virtuosi who had first played her precious and mystical instrument, her nerves were breaking down. She was afraid she was going mad.

Why should you read this book?
This book is well-written: all the characters have backstories and motivations, and the setting is fully realized. Despite this, I felt no connection with the characters. I read the entire book, but I never felt drawn to the story, wondering what would happen next. And I should have, because this was an interesting idea. As a musician, I loved the history of the glass harmonica; as a historian, I thought Marley’s depiction of Benjamin Franklin was great; as a scientist, I loved the idea of applying music to neuro-therapy. As a writer, I thought something was lacking, which may be because the back cover copy made the story seem more action-oriented, a time-travel similar to The Lake House (which defies so many laws of physics and time-travel, even).

A pleasant read, the one thing that really annoyed me was Marley’s use of “’twas” and “’tis,” beyond the 1761 dialogue. For example: Eilish pushed the basket again, trying to make her two seed coins clink together. Talk brought no food. ‘Twas money she needed. In my opinion, Marley should have stuck with a first-person narrative for the 1761 story, and third-person for the 2018, if she wanted to write like that. But then, another reader will find it charming, and think I’m crazy for not liking it. Such a subjective profession this is…