Music is my saviour, so I love reading novels about music as much as I love listening to music. Whether it’s about a rock band, a rockstar, a simple musician or a composer, it is always fun to read novels about music and how it transforms lives.
In this list of novels about music, I tried to list books that are diverse, interesting and beautiful. I hope you’ll find a book to your liking!
Novels About Music
High Fidelity – Nick Hornby
One of the most popular novels about music. Do you know your desert-island, all-time, top five most memorable break-ups? Rob does.
But Laura isn’t on it – even though she’s just become his latest ex.
Finding he can’t get over Laura, record-store owner Rob decides to revisit his relationship top hits to figure out what went wrong. But soon, he’s asking himself some big questions: about relationships, about life and about his own self-destructive tendencies.
Orfeo – Richard Powers
Composer Peter Els opens the door one evening to find the police on his doorstep. His amateur science lab – the latest experiment in his lifelong attempt to find music in the most surprising places – has aroused the suspicions of Homeland Security.
Panicked by the raid, Els turns fugitive. As an internet-fuelled hysteria erupts, Els – the ‘Bioterrorist Bach’ – pays a final visit to the people he loves, those who shaped his musical journey. Together, they hatch a plan to turn this disastrous collision with state security into a work that will reawaken a nationwide audience to the glorious sounds and symphonies that lie hidden all around them—a powerful one among novels about music.
Daisy Jones & The Six Taylor – Jenkins Reid
Everybody knows Daisy Jones and the Six.
From the moment Daisy walked barefoot on to the stage at the Whisky, she and the band were a sensation.
Their sound defined an era. Their albums were on every turntable. They played sold-out arenas from coast to coast.
Then, on 12 July 1979, it all came crashing down.
They were lovers, friends, brothers. But they were also rivals.
This is the story of their legendary rise and irrevocable fall. A story of ambition, desire, heartbreak and music.
Everyone was there. Everyone remembers it differently. Nobody knew why they split. Until now… A popular one among novels about music.
An Equal Music – Vikram Seth
A chance sighting on a bus; a letter which should never have been read; a pianist with a secret that touches the heart of her music . . . AN EQUAL MUSIC is a book about love, about the love of a woman lost and found and lost again; it is a book about music and how the love of music can run like a passionate fugue through a life. It is the story of Michael, of Julia, and of the love that binds them. A wonderful one among novels about music.
Bel Canto – Ann Patchett
The poignant – and at times very funny – novel from the author of The Dutch House and Commonwealth.
Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country’s vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honour of the powerful businessman Mr. Hosokawa. Roxane Coss, opera’s most revered soprano, has mesmerised the international guests with her singing.
It is a perfect evening – until a band of gun-wielding terrorists takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, a moment of great beauty, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different continents become compatriots, intimate friends, and lovers.
Overture – Yael Goldstein
For the fans of classical music among novels about music. Natasha Darsky is “the most famous violinist since Paganini.” Bow in hand, she lights an erotic fire under every piece of music she plays, telling each composer’s story in a singularly sensuous way. The daughter of a world-renowned art dealer in New York City, Natasha grows up in a world where artistic achievement is accorded the highest value, and her father’s opinion determines the rise and the fall of many an artist.
Her prodigious musical talent, discovered when she is a little girl, blossoms at Harvard, where she begins to pursue composition as well as performing. She is soon involved in a passionate love affair with Jean Paul, a young composer whose innovative music is hailed as revolutionary. Under Jean Paul’s shadow, Natasha abandons her dream of writing music of her own and turns toward performance. Channeling the frustration and muted fury of this choice into her playing, she creates a sexually charged sound that packs concert halls around the world year after year.
Her young daughter, Alex, follows in her celebrated footsteps, but it is Alex’s talent as a composer that brings mother and daughter together–and tears them apart in ways Natasha could hardly have anticipated.
“Overture” draws readers into the glamorous and competitive world of classical music, capturing its harsh demands and its magical power to move performers and audiences alike. With a mastery rare in a first-time novelist, Yael Goldstein offers a fascinating meditation on the nature of creative brilliance and on the love that binds a mother and daughter even when their personal desires clash. A good choice for literary fiction lovers among novels about music.
Nocturnes – Kazuo Ishiguro
In Nocturnes, Kazuo Ishiguro explores ideas of love, music and the passing of time. From the piazzas of Italy to the ‘hush-hush floor’ of an exclusive Hollywood Hotel, the characters we encounter range from young dreamers to cafe musicians to faded stars, all of them at some moment of reckoning.
Gentle, intimate and witty, this quintet is marked by a haunting theme – the struggle to keep alive a sense of life’s romance, even as one gets older, relationships founder and youthful hopes recede—one from a Nobel winner among novels about music.
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto – Mitch Albom
For the fans of Mitch Albom among novels about music. At nine years old, Frankie Presto is sent to America in the bottom of a boat. His only possession is an old guitar and six precious strings.
But Frankie’s talent is unique, and his amazing journey weaves him through the musical landscape of the twentieth century, from classical to jazz to rock and roll, with his stunning talent affecting numerous stars along the way, including Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Carole King and even KISS.
Frankie becomes a pop star himself. He makes records. He is adored. But his gift is also his burden, as he realises, through his music, he can actually affect people’s futures — with one string turning blue whenever a life is altered.
At the height of his popularity, Frankie Presto vanishes. His legend grows. Only decades later does he reappear, to change one last life. A popular one among novels about music.
The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love – Oscar Hijuelos
A Pulitzer winner among novels about music. In 1949 two young Cuban musicians, brothers Cesar and Nestor, leave Havana for New York. By day they work hard, by night they are the Mambo Kings: packing out clubs, dance halls and theatres with their sensuous, pulsing Latin music. This is the captivating story of charming, vivacious womanizer Cesar and quiet, romantic Nestor – still nursing an unrequited love for ‘beautiful Maria of my soul’ – and their changing fortunes as they try to make it big in America.
Lev’s Violin – Helena Attlee
An exciting one among novels about music. From the moment she hears Lev’s violin for the first time, Helena Attlee is captivated. She is told that it is an Italian instrument, named after its former Russian owner. Eager to discover all she can about its ancestry and the stories contained within its delicate wooden body, she sets out for Cremona, birthplace of the Italian violin. This is the beginning of a beguiling journey whose end she could never have anticipated.
Making its way from dusty workshops, through Alpine forests, cool Venetian churches, glittering Florentine courts, and far-flung Russian flea markets, Lev’s Violin takes us from the heart of Italian culture to its very furthest reaches. Its story of luthiers and scientists, princes and orphans, musicians, composers, travellers and raconteurs swells to a poignant meditation on the power of objects, stories and music to shape individual lives and to craft entire cultures. An excellent one among novels about music.
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Are there any novels about music, you’d like to add to this list? Would you please share in the comments section below?