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The Gustave Sonata
  • ISBN: 9781784700201
  • Pages: 320
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • Binding: Paperback

The Gustave Sonata

Rose Tremain

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Gustav Perle grows up in a small town in Switzerland, where the horrors of the Second World War seem a distant echo. But Gustav’s father has mysteriously died, and his adored mother Emilie is strangely cold and indifferent to him; his childhood is spent in lonely isolation.

As time goes on, he begins an intense friendship with a boy of his own age, Anton Zwiebel. Jewish and mercurial, a talented pianist tortured by nerves when he has to play in public, Anton fails to understand how deeply and irrevocably his life and Gustav’s are entwined.

Reviewed by Maggie Fergusson in Slightly Foxed Issue 64.

Love and Friendship


Rose has compared The Gustav Sonata to a Swiss watch. The novel is deceptively easy to read, ‘just as the faces of Swiss watches are clear and easy to read. They appear to do a very simple job, which in fact is not simple at all, but the product of sophisticated knowledge and engineering work.’ The language is simple and unadorned, while the story being told is actually very carefully and minutely assembled . . .

Extract from Slightly Foxed Issue 64, Winter 2019

Love and Friendship

One summer’s evening, at the age of 13 or 14, Rose Tremain had what she describes as ‘an epiphany’. She had been playing tennis with friends at school, but was alone, when she was overcome with...

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