The Gustav Sonata
What is the difference between friendship and love? Or between neutrality and commitment? Gustav Perle grows up in a small town in 'neutral' Switzerland, where the horrors of the Second World War seem a distant echo. But Gustav's father has mysteriously died, and his adored mother Emilie is strangely cold and indifferent to him. Gustav's childhood is spent in lonely isolation, his only toy a tin train with painted passengers staring blankly from the carriage windows.

As time goes on, an intense friendship with a boy of his own age, Anton Zwiebel, begins to define Gustav's life. Jewish and mercurial, a talented pianist tortured by nerves when he has to play in public, Anton fails to understand how deeply and irrevocably his life and Gustav's are entwined.

Fierce, astringent, profoundly tender, Rose Tremain’s beautifully orchestrated novel asks the question, what does it do to a person, or to a country, to pursue an eternal quest for neutrality, and self-mastery, while all life's hopes and passions continually press upon the borders and beat upon the gate.

The Gustav Sonata Details

Book TitleThe Gustav Sonata
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The Gustav Sonata Reviews

  • Dianne
    Jan 15, 2017


    I loved this! Review to come..... ...

  • Cheryl M-M
    Jan 15, 2017

    Cheryl M-M

    Neutrality, yes it is a word Switzerland likes to wave around like a flag of honour. The truth is rather more dismal I’m afraid.What they call neutrality I call collaboration, what they call being an objective observer I call turning a blind eye to the atrocities going on. The Swi...

  • Julie
    Jan 10, 2017


    Rose Tremain amazes me. I haven't always enjoyed her narratives, but I never ceased to be awed by the breadth and depth of her subject matter, the fearlessness of her approach, and the sheer elegance of her writing. The Gustav Sonata exemplifies what she does so well: writing in a tone...

  • Rebecca
    Jan 4, 2017


    I have promised a close friend that I will not "inflate" my Goodreads ratings this year and that only a few books will end up deserving of 5 stars. I plan to stick to that resolution, but it turns out that one of those few books is the second one I read all year. I think that many peop...

  • Chantal
    Jan 4, 2017


    Wat een mooi boek! De schrijfster weet op een zeer boeiende manier de diverse karakters vorm te geven en maakt heel duidelijk dat niets in het leven zwart-wit is, zeker de intermenselijke relaties niet. Een aanrader! (De Nederlandse vertaling heet Gustav&Anton) ...

  • Chrissie
    Nov 28, 2016


    This book says very little about Switzerland's treatment of Jews during the Second World War. It can be summed up in one sentence: because the Swiss feared Germany would invade if they offered a safe-haven to Jews they stopped them from entering the country after August 18, 1938. In th...

  • Robert Blumenthal
    Nov 8, 2016

    Robert Blumenthal

    I've been a fan of Rose Tremain for years now, and once again she delivers big time in her latest novel. This one is a rather gentle novel, with Tremain's trademark flurries of lurid sidebars. It is essentially a love story of intense friendship between two men in Switzerland beginning...

  • Gill
    Oct 15, 2016


    3.5 starsHmm. I found this book very patchy. I enjoyed Part 1, about the childhood of the 2 boys, and thought there were enough hints in this part, to suggest that the rest of the book would be very interesting. But I didn't find Part 2 particularly interesting or well-written. Part 3 ...

  • Liz
    Oct 11, 2016


    Switzerland, 1947: A lifelong friendship begins when Gustav Perle takes Anton Zweibel under his wing on his first day of kindergarten. Contrary to Gustav’s life with a mother incapable of expressing affection, Anton has a ready supply of love and encouragement from his doting pare...

  • Jill
    Oct 9, 2016


    I liked this book, but the setting in Switzerland and references to neutrality felt forced to me. My husband is Swiss, and we have lived there and I didn't feel like the setting or interactions were very "Swiss" other than mentioning a few Swiss cities and cheese. I also felt that ther...