A hauntingly beautiful new novel from the author of The Virgin’s Knot.
Sara Foster has left America for the adventure of a lifetime—teaching English to the sons and daughters of statesmen in Hungary—but her idyllic adventure instead reveals a dark world of pain and redemption when she ends up teaching in a refugee camp. Sara discovers that one of her students is a celebrated composer and soon finds herself crossing the border to his war-torn homeland, determined to exonerate him for the death of his brother.
In a journey that takes her to Dubrovnik, a magnificent stone city on the Croatian Riviera, Sara contemplates her own identity, struggling to understand why the region’s ancient and extraordinary beauty belies a history of grief. As Sara unveils the secret of the composer’s escape, The Sound of Blue reveals poignant truths about the quests for refuge we all pursue.
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Holly Payne has traveled extensively throughout Turkey and Croatia and lived in southern Hungary for a year, where much of The Sound of Blue takes place. She holds an MFA from the Master of Professional Writing Program at USC and teaches screenwriting and creative writing at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.From Publishers Weekly:
Payne's second novel (after 2002's well-received The Virgin's Knot) ruminates on refuge and how solace may be found in music and memory. In 1992, after getting rejected from Harvard Law School, Sara Foster flees to teach English in Hungary. She envisions a glamorous Budapest "where poets and politicians gobbled cakes and cobbled history, mixing ink with icing, calling it sweet," but instead finds herself giving lessons in optimism to Croatian refugees in Csokhid who have fled the "twentieth-century psoriasis" of war. Though used to solitude, Sara feels painfully disconnected; she finds comfort in the music of Milan, a Serbian composer who welcomes her attention ("The sound of blue had permitted perfect strangers to turn toward each other in one measured moment of refuge"). But when Milan returns to his native Dubrovnik to face his demons, Sara follows, to the war-torn city where a young half-Croatian, half-Serbian refugee named Luka searches for his drum, which will "wake the dead." Payne employs flourishes of figurative language and poetic musings on the nature of refuge and memory. But these exquisite (and sometimes overwritten) miniatures come at the expense of the bigger picture; the plot's clarity and momentum suffer, as do character development and the novel's real and dark context.
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