February 2016

Music in love and war


Music plays a key role in my new novel.

The main character, Julia, is a pianist – a lapsed one. Doubting her talent and her ability to stay the course, she gives up her studies at the Royal College and gets married. Some years later, with a nine-year-old son and settled provincial life, she’s still playing, but for an audience of one. That’s when we meet her.

Debussy’s La cathédrale engloutie is a powerful point of connection when she meets Dougie, the man who will become her lover.

After their affair begins, Dougie introduces Julia to jazz. The piece he plays for her is Tea for Two by Art Tatum (1933), a dazzling display of virtuoso piano-playing and my favourite in the book.

I’m not going to tell the rest of the story in music, for fear of spoiling the plot. But here are other pieces that feature:

‘Begin the Beguine’ – a lovely version by Artie Shaw and his Orchestra (1938).

Chopin’s ‘Raindrop Prelude’ – I have wonderful memories of my daughter playing this on the piano that used to live in our hall. Here it’s played by Horowitz.

‘Stardust’ by Hoagy Carmichael, my mother’s favourite.

‘Melancholy Baby’, in this version sung by Al Bowlly, who was killed in an air raid.

Rachmaninov – an unspecified piece in the novel, but we might as well imagine it’s the theme to Brief Encounter.

Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 17 in G, played by Myra Hess, seen and heard here in a short clip from Listen to Britain.

‘Thing-ummy-bob’ – glorious innuendo, sung by Our Gracie.

There’s no link for ‘Asymmetries’ by Bernard (I never got round to giving him a last name, but let’s say it’s ‘Heath’) because Bernard and his music are made up.

Praise for If I Could Tell You

‘Vivid, candid, engaging. So honest.’ Helen Dunmore

‘Heart-wrenching… convincing and intoxicating… Julia is a very English Anna Karenina.An unromantic love story that feels honest and searing.’ The Times

‘What makes this story stand out is its absolute honesty…Wartime Britain has been rarely so skilfully evoked.’ Daily Mail                  

‘Beautifully observed and written, I loved it.’ Woman and Home

‘An elegant, absorbing tale of hope and resilience.’ Sainsbury’s Magazine

‘Elizabeth Wilhide writes about universal emotions with great tenderness and imagination.’ Claire Fuller, author of Our Endless Numbered Days

‘Whenever people argue we don’t need feminism, we need to remember how far we have come. A hard book to put down – a very humane look at a traumatic time in our history.’ Girl with her Head in a Book

‘I have never read any other books by Elizabeth Wilhide but wow, she can write. Her writing style is reminiscent of Helen Dunmore or Kate Atkinson, which is high praise. I was sucked into this story. I enjoyed the subtle humour and I thought the way it brought the realities of wartime London to life was masterful.’ Julia Flyte, Amazon Top 100 Reviewer

‘Although I have read many books about the war this will stay in my memory as a perceptive, shocking and subjective account…. I could feel myself there with the smells, air raids, fear and destruction.’ Sheila via Netgalley

‘The most I have ever identified with the suffering of those under constant bombardment during the war, due to Wilhide’s superb writing.’ Tina via Netgalley

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