Book review: Maurice Guest by Henry Handel Richardson


Maurice GuestMaurice Guest by Henry Handel Richardson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Free download available at eBooks@Adelaide.

This is the first book written by Henry Handel Richardson that I’ve ever read. And I absolutely loved it.

The plot describes the life of Maurice Guest, a music piano student who lived and studied in Leipzig in the end of the 19th century. This book is about obsession, jealousy and friendship. Among Maurice’s friends, there is his best friend Madeleine Wade who was a former teacher in a large school near London. She was a devoted teacher of music, mainly piano lectures.

By following Madeleine’s recommendation, Maurice started his piano lesson with Schwarz who will be his master in this art.

Dove is another of Maurice’s friend who helps him to obtain a private interview with his future master.

But it was an Australian young woman – Louise Dufrayer, by whom Maurice will fall in love, that his life will change forever. She also was a Schwarz’s student for about a year and a half since they met for the first time.

The author also describes the state-of-the art of Leipzig at that time: Bach worked in Leipzig from 1723 to 1750; Richard Wagner was born in Leipzig in 1813; Schumann was also active in Leipzig music, having been invited by Felix Mendelssohn when the latter established Germany’s first musical conservatoire in the city in 1843; Mahler was second conductor at the Leipzig Theatre from June 1886 until May 1888; he also completed his own 1st Symphony while living there. By being a music student herself, the author really magnificently described the music atmosphere of that city.

About the author:
Henry Handel Richardson is a pen-name Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson – an Australian writer.
This book is a sort of the author’s auto-biography: by reading her biography, one learns that “After visiting relations in England, the family moved to Leipzig, Germany, where Ethel enrolled at the Royal Conservatorium in April 1889 to study the piano, and her sister the violin. They were soon immersed in the musical and social life of the town…”

Maurice Guest was adapted, very loosely, for the screen in Rhapsody (1954) starring Elizabeth Taylor, with the setting in Switzerland rather than Germany. But you should be aware that the end of this movie has nothing to do with the ending of the book!

By coincidence (or not), January 3, 2015 was the Henry Handel Richardson’s birthday and was celebrated in Chiltren Victoria Australia. This place is an “historical village built upon solid values of its mining heritage.”

Interesting links:

Henry Handel Richardson Society.

Agony by agony – Guardian’s review book.

5* Maurice Guest
CR The End of a Childhood
TBR The Getting of Wisdow

The Fortunes of Richard Mahony series;
TBR Australia Felix
TBR The Way Home
TBR Ultima Tule

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