ESCAPEMENT examines the agony and ecstasy of creative genius through the eyes of a brilliant musician and composer. Henri, an androgynous woman who often dresses as a man, is the housekeeper and friend of celebrated composer Cristofer Vaughn. She herself is a gifted composer, though she neglects her own talent in favor of nurturing Cristofer’s. Presenting herself as a man allows Henri to circumvent many of the restrictions imposed upon women in the 19th century, but it also carries a risk should her disguise be uncovered. Her identity is just one of her secrets — Henri harbors another that could destroy Cristofer’s career. When Cristofer is commissioned to compose a piece for Clara Thorne, a renowned pianist with whom he falls in love, the secrets he and Henri keep threaten to unravel.
Set during the Romantic era of music, ESCAPEMENT is an extraordinary historical novel. It transports readers to a golden age of music when composers were revered as great artists. ESCAPEMENT gives its audience a glimpse at the passion and dedication which provided the world with some of its most beautiful music. While the main characters are fictional, the love triangle between Cristofer, his patron Richard Thorne and Richard’s wife, Clara, is similar to the story of real life composers Johannes Brahms and Robert and Clara Schumann.
The narrator, Henri, is a compelling character who, while far from traditional, makes no apologies for who she is. Living in a time when women are expected to defer to men, Henri lives life on her terms. Men dominated the field of music composition during the Romantic period, and Henri’s efforts represent the female composers of the age who were overshadowed by men. In contrasting Henri with Cristofer, author Kristen Wolf provides a stark comparison of gender roles in the 19th century.
For the most part, ESCAPEMENT is deftly researched and brings the period to life. There are some errors regarding music, though they are likely to go unnoticed by most readers, with the exception of piano virtuosos and astute musicologists. Those who do pick up on the inaccuracies will forgive them as they are outweighed by the sweeping beauty of Wolf’s prose.
Wolf is a masterful storyteller who has created an enchanting novel. ESCAPEMENT is a symphony of words, marked by lyrical phrases and exquisite rhythm. It will resonate with anyone who has ever felt passion.
~Christine-Marie Liwag Dixon for IndieReader