Nannerl Mozart, a brilliant musician in her own right, has been close to her brother, Wolfgang, since his birth. Then her father announces that he and Wolfgang are to go to Italy, leaving Nannerl behind to support their ambitions by giving music lessons to the talentless young gentry of Salzburg. Bitter over her lot, Nannerl gives up her music and retreats into a shell until she meets Victoria, a gifted harpsichordist—and Victoria’s widowed father. The ensuing romance has far-reaching consequences for Nannerl’s fraught relationship with her brother and ultimately for Nannerl herself.
Told through letters from Nannerl to her suitor and through a third-person narrator, Mozart’s Sister takes a bit of getting used to as the narrative flips back and forth in time and between narrative devices and points of view. The result, however, is well worth it. Charbonnier’s dialogue in this debut novel is lively, while her narrative voice is wonderfully droll at times, moving at others. Her characters, ranging from a baron who spouts bad poetry to the mercurial Mozart, are vivid. Nannerl herself is a beautifully realized heroine, who grows from a sullen, angry girlhood into a graceful yet formidable old age and who at last is able to embrace her brother’s musical legacy. Her journey is one that will entrance both lovers of music and lovers of historical fiction.