The Ghost of Frederic Chopin

Dear Reader,

Last year I read The Mystery of Henri Pick by David Foenkinos, which was published by Pushkin Press as part of the Walter Presents Library and translated by Sam Taylor. I thoroughly enjoyed the comic mystery (which is a must read for any bibliophile) so was very excited to see that another intriguing looking narrative from the same team was on the publishing horizon….The Ghost of Frederic Chopin by Eric Faye.

“Often – a quirk of his profession – he would fantasize that life was just a long film shoot and that, when it was over, the dead were led into an editing room so that they could eliminate the weaker scenes and keep only the parts that showed them in their best light.”

The Ghost of Frederic Chopin, written by Eric Faye and translated by Sam Taylor
The Ghost of Frederic Chopin by Eric Faye and translated by Sam Taylor

General Fiction (Adult) | Literary Fiction

Prague, 1995: journalist Ludvik Slany is assigned to make a documentary about a truly bizarre case.

Vera Foltynova, a middle-aged woman with no musical training, claims she has been visited by the ghost of great composer Frederic Chopin – and that he has been dictating dozens of compositions to her, to allow the world to hear the sublime music he was unable to create in his own short life.

With media and recording companies taking the bait, Ludvik enlists the help of ex-Communist secret police agent Pavel Cerny to expose Vera as a fraud. Soon, however, doubt creeps in, as he finds himself irrationally drawn towards this unassuming woman and the eerily beautiful music she plays. Could he be witnessing a true miracle?

***

Ludvik Slany’s obsessive mission to prove the self-claimed medium to Chopin is a hoax, creates a compelling exploration of what one’s reason disbelieves and how far one will go to prove it. Slany’s straightforward and somewhat cynical outlook on life is put to the test during his encounters with Vera Foltynova – but will what he discovers change his life forever?

A quirky, poetic and, thought provoking novel that hums with the static of recent communism, and reverberates with questions around the power of faith… The sardonic humour of Slany and the comforting character of Mrs Foltynova create an enjoyable and amusing contrast – you can’t help but hope she will prove this uptight journalist wrong!

Charismatic and intriguing; a wholly absorbing mystery brimming with the atmosphere of 1990’s Prague, the lingering shadows of the StB and the cut-throat world of the media – highly recommend!

I did find the names of the characters and places challenging to keep up with – and fully confess to getting lost on more than more occasion! – but despite this I still very much enjoyed the story.

The Ghost of Frederic Chopin is published today; thank you to Net Galley and the publishers for giving me an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Meg xx

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