In the upcoming novel, Beaulieu Delhomme, Frédéric Chopin’s piano tuner, hungry for money, is lured into a royal spy ring but later condemned for treason by Napoleon III during the 1848 Paris Uprising. His one-time competition for Chopin’s affections, George Sand, might be his only hope.
Filled with real historical characters and events, “The Education of Delhomme” is a captivating tale of struggle and hope amidst the social and political upheavals of mid-nineteenth century Europe.
Release Date: November 17, 2020
Dear Education of Delhomme,
Thank you for reminding me of the wonderful composer, Chopin. I loved listening to him and seeing his life from a behind the scenes look. Through reading you, I took the time to do my own digging in history surrounding the 1848 Paris Uprising and the French Women’s Suffrage Movement. I appreciate the encouragement to do so.
Chopin flutters arpeggios as I sip a cappuccino and munch on a passion fruit beignet. Book in hand I begin the journey of reading ‘The Education of Delhomme’. Unlike Chopin’s smooth and relaxing music in the background, I found reading this book an arduous task. I was disappointed not to enjoy it, because the topic is so new and fascinating. Chopin’s piano tuner? Spy? Treason? Paris in 1848? Sounds like a recipe for success, right?
While I did not whole-heartedly love this book, there were many good qualities. So, let’s start there. It was so interesting to “meet” Chopin. I didn’t know a lot about him, because way back when I took music appreciation class, he was not mentioned. I felt like Nancy Burkhalter did an amazing job to bring together the creative arts of music and writing. I left the book wanting to listen to Chopin more (being more informed about his history). Additionally, Nancy Burkhalter clearly knew what she was writing about. She used to be a piano tuner, which is clear from the level of detail and knowledge portrayed. During the whole book, I loved seeing the author’s passion come through for what she was writing about.
Despite the interesting topic, I found no connection with the characters. For me, connecting with characters is essential. The characters most interesting were the historical figures. I saw her research come through presenting well-rounded people. Beaulieu, her fictional creation, felt awkwardly placed in a world he didn’t belong. I hate to say it, but he was not a sympathetic character. He complained about nearly everything, and then at the end took a self-righteous demeanor which grated on my nerves. He seemed to think he was better than everyone, except Chopin.
Women’s suffrage and equal rights was brought up through the character George Sand. George Sand was the writing alias for a woman, Amantine Lucile Aurore Dudevant. She was connected to Chopin through a 9 year romantic relationship. The worldwide suffrage movement is captivating and I ended up doing some personal research about the movement in France. Men first got the right to vote in 1848-1849, within the time frame this book is set. It was much later women had the right to vote in 1944 (although the first vote with women casting ballots was in 1945). What women went through simply for the right to vote astounds me. Throughout scenes where women’s rights were brought up, I found I had to remind myself of the time-period I was reading. This was 100 years before women got the right and men were fighting for this right. Therefore, it is not surprising men likely saw women as mere property. Despite this reminder to myself, when Beaulieu overtly said he only wanted a wife to cook and have babies for him I had to bite my tongue! By the end of the book, while he had some change of heart/development, his actions said he only really wanted a woman for babies and food. I left feeling discouraged by the lack of development in this area since it was brought up.
With the view of women it was not surprising to feel the love story was forced. Rather than fighting for them to be together, I found myself rooting for Lili to find someone better! The book wouldn’t have been too different without Lili and Beaulieu’s love story… so why put it in? Lili has no personality, other than being a really good looker (as Beaulieu constantly brings up) and a good caretaker (he paid her to look after his Mom). She is betrothed to a soldier fighting out of country, yet she is writing love letters to Beaulieu. The development of their relationship was non-existent. When Beaulieu is going off to propose to Lili, he sees Lili and her betrothed talking on her front porch. In order to assert his dominance (and control over her), he jumps out of the carriage and fights him off. Then, he declared she is his betrothed… in front of her actual betrothed… without having even asked her yet. I actually, physically, cringed. I, once again, reminded myself of the historical view of women, but it felt degrading to read.
Finally, the writing didn’t flow well for me. I never got engrossed into the book where I wanted to keep reading. There are some books which feel like a time machine into history. We as readers don’t see words on a page, but living breathing imagery surrounding us. I rarely saw anything but the black and white words on the page, it just didn’t come to life for me. The second half of the book is where I felt like the writing and plot found a better stride… or maybe its because I decided to push through the second half. I felt like the first half was a “Ode to Chopin” and the second half about Beaulieu’s story line.
This book is unique and I don’t know if there is another like it. It is clear the author put time and effort into the research and historical accuracy. Learning history is much more fun when told as a story, and my knowledge of this topic has grown substantially. Overall, I feel like I did take away something from reading the book, and it encouraged me to seek out more information. But, it is not one I will pick up again.
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with this ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.