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Review: The Wonder Singer, George Rabasa

Mark Lockwood has been entrusted with the secrets of Merce Casals’ life as her biographer, and that is a job he doesn’t take lightly.  He has spent months immersing himself in her voice, teasing out her secrets, and preparing to share her story in her words with the world.  Then Merce dies and Lockwood’s agent wants to attach a bigger writing name to the project.  Lockwood is appalled and rejects the idea, going into hiding with his tapes and becoming determined to write the book as it should be written, never mind what he loses for it.

There are definitely two sides to this story.  There is Merce’s story and there is Lockwood’s story.  I loved Merce’s story.  I always wanted to get back to her words, her voice.  Her life is fascinating, from abandonment at a very young age, to a war, to a husband and fantastic opera career, and ending up living a quiet life with a maid and a man eager for her every word.  I wanted to know everything about her, and I couldn’t say why; maybe because not only is her story fascinating, but Lockwood is similarly obsessed, and that means there is something extraordinary about this lady.  Her life is a mesh of cultures and experiences and I could not get enough.

I felt a little less interested in Lockwood’s life.  Personally, since I really liked Merce’s story, I could understand why he would have been obsessed, but I didn’t think it was quite worth what he put into it.  Moreover, I didn’t get his interest in the maid and I didn’t like the “party atmosphere” that was created towards the end of the book while he was writing.  Honestly, I think that’s my own preference.  I’d hate to have that going on in my house even if I was absorbed in writing the greatest biography of the century.  I also don’t think it’s acceptable to hit on another woman when you still love your wife.

That’s not to say that I didn’t like this part.  If anything, Lockwood’s fascination was really curious.  It was like a psychological peek into his head every time he spoke to his wife.  His frantic efforts to make sure that the big name author and his agent didn’t get the tapes were quite amusing.  I liked most that it wasn’t about the money; Lockwood wanted to do justice to Merce and her life.

I would recommend this book, particularly for Merce’s sections.  I think someone who had more life experience and knew what marriage was like would probably appreciate Lockwood’s half more than I did.  Still, I very much enjoyed reading this, and would definitely pick up another book by George Rabasa.

Buy The Wonder Singer on Amazon.

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