The Last Concerto by Sara Alexander: this is the perfect mood music for home or holiday reading - book review -

The Last Concerto
The Last Concerto

A young girl from a working class background, who discovers that she has a prodigious talent for piano playing, must make difficult choices when her dazzling new life and career begin to collide with her dreams of love and family.

Let yourself be swept away by a symphony of sea, sunshine and the sweet sound of music in an enchanting new novel from Sara Alexander.

Alexander, author of summertime sizzlers Under a Sardinian Sky and The Secret Legacy, has worked extensively in the theatre, film and television industries, and she brings all her artistry and musicality to this breathtaking trip to the Italian island of Sardinia.

A young girl from a working class background, who discovers that she has a prodigious talent for piano playing, must make difficult choices when her dazzling new life and career begin to collide with her dreams of love and family.

Brimming with the sights, sounds and scents of one of Italy’s most spectacular and historic islands, The Last Concerto is written to the rhythm of Sardinia’s people, their love of food, their strong sense of community and kinship, and the beliefs and folklore that have bound them together for centuries, and the music of some of the world’s greatest maestros.

Although famed for its natural beauty and rich history, Sardinia in 1968 is notorious too for the lawless bandits who kidnap wealthy landowners for ransom, and when eleven-year-old Alba Fresu’s brother, Marcellino, and her father, Bruno, are abducted by criminals who mistake Bruno for a rich man, the schoolgirl’s life is turned upside down.

After days of worry and fear, Marcellino and Bruno are eventually released, but the experience leaves the quiet and thoughtful Alba shaken and unable to readjust to normal life, or to give voice to her inner turmoil.

Accompanying her impatient and sharp-tongued mother, Giovanna, to cleaning jobs, Alba visits the villa of the widowed Signora Elias and touches the keys of a piano for the first time. The instrument’s spell is immediate… not only does she feel safe but her fingers feel at home on the keys.

Soon Signora Elias is giving Alba secret lessons, forbidden by her mother, but at long last allowing the girl to express emotions that are too powerful for words alone.

Seven years later and now aged eighteen, Alba ignores her parents’ insistence that she work in the family’s car dealership and marry a local boy, and instead accepts a scholarship to the Rome conservatoire where she immerses herself in a vibrant world of art and a passionate affair.

But her path will lead her to a crossroads, and Alba will have to decide how to reconcile her talent with her longing for love and family, and find a way to convey the music of her heart…

The Last Concerto is a beautiful story as we follow Alba’s rollercoaster, emotional journey from troubled youngster to successful concert pianist discovering that compromises and sacrifices have to be made however high your star has risen.

Cleverly annotated with musical terms at the beginning of each chapter, and imbued throughout with the rich flavours of Italian life and food, and the soaring notes of a sensual composition, this is the perfect mood music for home or holiday reading.

(HQ, paperback, £7.99)