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review 2017-03-20 05:24
Book Review: Mozart's Last Aria
Mozart's Last Aria - Matt Rees

Book: Mozart's Last Aria


Author: Matt Rees


Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery


Summary: The news arrives in a letter to his sister, Nannerl, in December 1791. But the message carries more than word of Nannerl's brother's demise. Two months earlier, Mozart confided to his wife that his life was rapidly drawing to a close . . . and that he knew he had been poisoned. In Vienna to pay her final respects, Nannerl soon finds herself ensnared in a web of suspicion and intrigue - as the actions of jealous lovers, sinister creditors, rival composers, and Mozart's Masonic brothers suggest that dark secrets hastened the genius to his grave. As Nannerl digs deeper into the mystery surrounding her brother's passing, Mozart's black fate threatens to overtake her as well. Transporting readers to the salons and concert halls of eighteenth-century Austria, Mozart's Last Aria is a magnificent historical mystery that pulls back the curtain on a world of soaring music, burning passion, and powerful secrets. -Harper Perennial, 2011.


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review 2012-08-08 00:00
A Name In Blood - Matt Rees Book received from Corvus through Book Geeks.

Rome in 1605 is a place where powerful families are in competition with each other and not even the Pope has enough power to control everybody and everything. In a world where the mighty live in grand palazzos, surrounded by wealth, Caravaggio is a painter and as such considered a lowly craftsman.
Although Caravaggio’s work is starting to attract attention he lives in a place called “the Evil Garden”. A place called home by prostitutes, beggars and others on the lowest rungs of society. In this world Caravaggio’s days are divided between his art and drink, gambling and knife-fights. It is a world in which is easy to make enemies and Caravaggio finds himself on the wrong side of Ranuccio Tomassoni, the son of a powerful family.
But, when Caravaggio is invited to paint the new Pope it seems his luck has changed. And meeting and falling for Lena, a low-born fruit-seller seems to even give him a fleeting chance at happiness.
But Caravaggio is not the sort of person who can accept his blessings and be happy. Haunted by ghosts from his past and a determination to create his paintings according to his own vision, without concern for the conventions of the day, he constantly balances between acceptance and condemnation.
When he finally kills his rival, not even Caravaggio’s powerful friends can protect him from the dead-sentence now hanging over his head.
Leaving behind the woman he loves, the painter flees to Malta in the hope that acceptance into the Order of Malta may save his life. But even that far away from home his past as well as new enemies continue to make his life a delicate balancing act.

This is a fascinating book.
The descriptions of Caravaggio’s paintings, his passion for his work and the turmoil in his private life all come together to create a very vivid picture.
The historical setting comes alive on the pages of this book. You can see and smell the rot in the Evil Garden and picture the grandeur of the palazzos and cathedrals.
Caravaggio is clearly a very troubled man and while initially I found myself wondering why he seemed so determined to put himself in danger and risk the success that appeared to be within his reach, by the end of the book I felt I understood the man and his need to protect what he considered to be his honour.
Matt Rees has a clever way with words. I’m not very familiar with Caravaggio’s work, but I imagine that the darkness and shadows that appear in the painter’s work had a great deal to do with the way in which this story was told. I always had the feeling that there were things hiding in the background; things I couldn’t quite see but could feel under the surface, threatening to catch up with the main character.

Caravaggio, of course, disappeared in July 1610 and although it was rumoured that he died of a fever, his body was never found.
Matt Rees, in this book, presents the reader with a cause of death and a reason for the painter’s demise that for me, after reading the whole book, is both believable and heartbreaking.

The story in this book captured me, although I can’t escape the feeling that I might have gotten to a greater understanding for the story and Caravaggio’s character if I had a better knowledge of his work.
I think this is a book that would be greatly enjoyed by those who enjoy a good historical thriller as well as those who love art, especially Caravaggio’s work.
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review 2012-01-06 00:00
Mozart's Last Aria - Matt Rees I finished Mozart's Last Aria by Matt Rees. Overall, I liked it fairly well & think it would appeal to fans of historical fiction &/or Mozart fans. It would probably also appeal to those who have enjoyed Dan Brown's book as it's a bit similar in style (Masons, secret symbols, influential men, etc...).

Rees included some really lovely little touches & details that made the historic setting shine (emerald green wine; the many times that church bells ring in the city; ...). I found some of the historically accurate points quite interesting, including that Mozart belonged to the Masonic order & that he pushed for an order that would include women as equals. Otoh, the story is told from the viewpoint of Nannerl (his sister) as if she was visiting Vienna after his death in order to investigate his death/murder. Historically speaking, she never did this; even though it's historical fiction, I feel like that's a pretty big leap to make (the main action/character being fictionally put into the setting, including an illicit liasion). I guess I like my historical fiction to feel about 70% true, 30% fiction; I felt this book was more of a 50-50 mix between truth & fiction.

Overall, though, an enjoyable enough read....
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review 2011-12-11 00:00
Mozart's Last Aria: A Novel
Mozart's Last Aria - Matt Rees With nine years of participating in an award-winning wind ensemble under my belt, I have a huge affinity for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his works. I've visited Salzburg several times, toured the house in which he was born, and have watched the movie Amadeus more times than I probably should admit. When offered the chance to review a novel about Mozart's mysterious demise, there was no hesitation on my part; I felt I was meant to read this book. I mention this because my knowledge of and feelings for the maestro definitely influenced my thoughts on the book in a way that most readers probably will not experience. Consider this a disclaimer of sorts.Mozart's Last Aria in an intriguing but bland conspiracy theory about Mozart's true cause of death. Told after Mozart's death from his sister's point of view, the reader is led on a goose chase around Vienna as Nannerl attempts to uncover the truth behind certain riddles and mysterious comments her brother made during his last few months on Earth. Unfortunately, its focus on Mozart's Masonic membership made this more reminiscent of current conspiracy theory novels a la Dan Brown. Therein lies the problem.Mozart's Last Aria hopes to capitalize on Mozart's undeniable genius and the fact that his untimely death prevented even more of his amazing work from being composed and shared with the world. In fact, this exact sentiment is mentioned on almost every page, as one character after another laments on the world's loss after his death. The reader is reminded of this loss incessantly to the point where it becomes slightly nauseating and increasingly numbing. While this loss is meant to increase the reader's sense of urgency to uncover the truth, its constant repetition undermines the suspense.One cannot read Mozart's Last Aria without noting distinct comparisons to other modern popular suspense novels. It has the Freemasons and "dangerous", life-changing secrets that could change Austria forever, while the reader is left to understand that Mozart was at the heart of this dangerous secret. Unfortunately, the only clue to Mozart's supposedly passionate support of this secret is his music. Mr. Rees attempts to use Mozart's music alone, and not his behavior or own words, to support his theory. It is a weak connection at best, especially because Mozart was a prolific writer, as was his entire family. If he truly supported such sentiments, one would expect more proof in the form of actions or his written words. Music, which is highly subjective, as the only clue is not enough to provide conclusive evidence of Mozart's involvement in these secrets, making this entire storyline very weak.Mozart's Last Aria is one that definitely must be read with full access to all of his works on hand, as Nannerl goes into great depth of each piece mentioned. Without a deep understanding of music, a reader will easily get bogged down into these very technical passages. Added to that, the flimsy proof behind the big secret and the fact that no one but Nannerl is able to uncover the mystery leaves a reader feeling deeply incredulous over the entire premise. While it does offer a relatively brief alternative to the more depressing Mozart biographies, there is much that is lacking that prevents a reader from being able to become truly immersed in the story. An inability to do this makes this one suspense novel that lacks in suspense.
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review 2011-11-15 00:00
Mozart's Last Aria - Matt Rees Even though this book has elements that I just eat up -- a take-charge heroine, unique foreign setting, weird conspiracy involving a secret society, dramatic artists, and lots of intrigue -- I actually found this to be an unremarkable novel. The book isn't bad -- it's just rather pedestrian. At 295 pages, it ought to be a fast read but weirdly, the story drags despite the non-stop action. The novel is written in the first person which is normally a voice I rather like -- I enjoy 'being' the heroine -- but in this case, I felt as if it were the 'easy' choice. Lots of telling the reader how the heroine felt rather than demonstrating, and that always bores me. (For example, there are two pages of the heroine looking at herself in the mirror near the start of the novel so we would learn of her appearance -- which is a tried and true trick of first person narrators in YA novels. I don't care how my heroine looks; I care about how she acts.)It's obvious when reading the Author's Note and the mini-essay about the novel that Rees admires Mozart immensely and was greatly inspired by Vienna. That comes across in this novel but not much else. For a heroine who should be so interesting -- a child prodigy with great musical talents herself, married to a provincial widower and estranged from her brother in his last years -- Nannerl was remarkably flat. The setting of the novel is a conspiracy around Mozart's sudden death, which is a historical event I've been fascinated with since I was a kid. As such, Mozart's music is a huge part of the novel, and in particular his opera Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute). It's tricky when a novel features an artistic medium that readers might not be familiar with -- ballet or modern art or classical music -- and it takes real skill to make the experience of that medium, however foreign, something that readers can relate with and appreciate (Evan Fallenberg's When We Danced on Water made the passion of ballet very real for me, for example). Unfortunately, I don't think Rees quite conveyed why Mozart was such a genius or why his music was so moving (other than extolling us to find his music and listen along). I've had the good fortune of seeing Die Zauberflöte twice in the last handful of years with opera nuts who pointed out much of the Masonic influence that Rees mentions in this novel, and as a result, I felt comfortable with that aspect of the story: the characters, the visual clues, the possible political references. But I think those who aren't as familiar with the opera might be lost, especially since Rees continually tells us how greatly Mozart's music impacts everyone but doesn't translate that into an experience the reader can enjoy, too.The book is loaded with extras: a map of Vienna, cast of characters, a list of music referenced in each chapter, an essay from the author on the inspiration for the story (and the hint that he wrote the novel emulating the form and feel of one of Mozart's darker piano sonatas), and suggested additional reading. Certainly, this novel inspired in me an interest to learn more about Mozart's sister but I can't say I understand more about Mozart or even 18th century Vienna. I think if you go into this with YouTube queued up and the expectation that you're getting a fast historical thriller, the experience will be diverting, a splashy read for the holidays.
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