The Glass Harmonica

Written by Louise Marley
Review by Alexandra Ceely

Eilish Eam is a young Irish orphan living on the streets of eighteenth century London. Erin Rushton is a concert musician living in twenty-first century Seattle. Both are drawn together by the glass harmonica, a musical instrument based on water-filled wineglasses that was invented by Benjamin Franklin. Legend has it that the ethereal sound created by the harmonica drives the musician insane, and Ms.Marley has based her story on that premise. Erin and Eilish are drawn together by this unique instrument. Each sees the other in her own time, and each draws strength from the other.

Eilish lives off the pennies she earns playing water-filled wine glasses on the street, until the day Ben Franklin takes her away to help him perfect his new instrument. Even though she lives in the lap of luxury, her life is a sad one. Erin Rushton is the daughter of a prominent physician, and her twin brother Charlie is a composer. She and her brother travel the country doing concerts until Charlie finds a doctor who has a possible cure for the paralysis that has confined him to a wheelchair.

This is a richly drawn, well-written story of artists striving and suffering for their art. Ms. Marley tells the tale in alternating chapters, allowing readers to find the parallels and make their own comparisons. Eighteenth century London (and Ben Franklin in particular) comes alive under Ms. Marley’s pen. The science fiction and fantasy elements of this tale are somewhat weak, leaving me instead to consider this an excellent work of historical fiction.

Alexandra Ceely