Mozart’s Sister

Written by Nancy Moser
Review by Susan Higginbotham

Nannerl Mozart, a talented musician in her own right, is used to being overshadowed by her brother, Wolfgang. Nonetheless, she struggles with envy and frustration—particularly when as a young girl, she realizes that her gender, rather than her musical gifts, will shape her destiny.

As the story of a woman cheated of the opportunities enjoyed by her brother, Mozart’s Sister, narrated by Nannerl, could have made for depressing reading. Instead, it’s a moving story of a woman who must cope with often difficult circumstances while doing her best to build a satisfactory life for herself.

The novel did feel a bit unbalanced to me; there’s a great deal about Nannerl’s childhood and years as a single woman, while comparatively little of the book is given over to her married life. This made an epiphany Nannerl experiences feel somewhat forced and abrupt; it was also odd, in light of the dramatic opening scene, not to see more of the emotional impact Mozart’s death had on his sister. These minor flaws, however, are countered by the novel’s strengths: its characterizations, especially that of Leopold Mozart, who turns out to be more complex and sympathetic than the stage parent he appears to be at the beginning; Moser’s deftness at portraying the shifting relationships within the Mozart family; and Nannerl herself, a good but realistically flawed woman born in the wrong time.