Author: Joanna Davidson Politano
Genre: Historical Mystery
Release Date: October 4, 2022
When concert pianist Vivienne Mourdant's father dies, he leaves to her the care of a patient at Hurstwell Asylum. Vivienne had no idea the woman existed, and yet her portrait is shockingly familiar. When the asylum claims she was never a patient there, Vivienne is compelled to discover what happened to the figure she remembers from childhood dreams.
The longer she lingers in the deep shadows and forgotten towers at Hurstwell, the fuzzier the line between sanity and madness becomes. She hears music no one else does, receives strange missives with rose petals between the pages, and untangles far more than is safe for her to know.
But can she uncover the truth about the mysterious woman she seeks? And is there anyone at Hurstwell she can trust with her suspicions?
Joanna Davidson Politano casts a delightful spell with this lyrical look into the nature of women's independence and artistic expression during the Victorian era--and now.
Reviewer: Christy Janes
There have been so many positive reviews written for The Lost Melody up to this point that adding my voice to the mix seems redundant. However, add it I shall because this story is nothing if not exquisitely told and may be the first time I've ever read one that was set in a Victorian asylum. The cover will draw you in, and the pages inside will not let you go. The themes of light shining through the darkness are present on every page and display how we, as Christians, should live with those around us.
While I certainly would love to gush over the prose, plot, and characters, I do not want to give even a hint of a spoiler because so many facets of this book are twined together. However, I will say that if you are a fan of classical music or Victorian history, this book deserves a place on your shelf. You will savor every page with a heart of compassion for the lost souls in this asylum and those who blindly believe their actions are worthy.
I received a copy of this book from Revell Publishers through Interviews and Reviews. All opinions within this review are my own.
Reviewer: Emily Stephens
This was such a good book! First, as historical fiction, it shared a lot about life during the 1880s in England, including fashion, family life, and places. As a bonus, the author also included a lot of information about what asylums were like. The main character, Vivienne, finds herself in one, first as a staff member and then as a patient. It was interesting to see how her understanding of the place changed when her status did. The author did a lot of research, and I felt like I learned a lot about the topic while also enjoying the story.
The book also lives up to its genre of Christian fiction. Vivienne is a Christian, and her faith guides her through the events of the story. The reader sees how she started her faith as a child, then relied on it as an adult. She is very realistic and has doubts along the way, but it was good to see her faith play a role throughout the story.
The story was great and kept my attention throughout. Vivienne is trying to investigate a mysterious disappearance at the asylum and explore a potential romantic attraction, all while trying to survive her circumstances. There is never a dull moment, and I was captivated the entire time I read. There are even a few gentle touches of the gothic to enthrall the reader!
Definitely 5 stars!
I received a review copy courtesy of Revell through Interviews & Reviews for my honest opinion.
Reviewer: Rebecca Maney
"God sends you somewhere that makes no sense, because he alone knows what you will find." - Vivienne Mourdant
Following the death of her overbearing father, concert pianist Vivienne Mourdant learns that she is responsible for an unbeknownst ward, a patient whom Hurstwell Asylum insists was never there. Eager to follow her own path forward for the first time, Vivienne is severely tempted to ignore the nudge of a virtual stranger to use her gift of music as a "light. . . taken into the utmost darkness . .". Coupled with a suspicion that an unknown melody from her childhood, played late at night by a mysterious memory of a woman, might be the person she is now responsible for, Vivienne dips her toes into a world beyond normalcy, falling head first into an abyss, a prison from which she fears that she will never return. Where is the music now?
"Mitchell (Dr. Mitchell Turner) saw traces of their Creator wrapped up in each intricately designed patient, and he had the intense feeling that locking them up deprived this asylum - the world at large - of the blessing of them."
What was it about the beautiful woman with an abundance of auburn hair that made Mitchell feel as if light could penetrate the darkness of his soul, his guilt, this place? She heard music, she felt music, she could even play music without any instrument, and she was trying to convince him that she didn't belong behind walls. He was tempted to believe her, until she was sorely provoked and demonstrated a remarkable semblance to madness. Still . . .. she gave him hope.
Have you ever considered how much darkness it takes to extinguish the light? Total. Interestingly, how much light does it take to dispel the darkness? A remarkably small amount. This extraordinary story demonstrates the power that light welds over darkness through a means by which few would expect, proving that "made in the image of God" applies to everyone, and the gift of music grants us a melodious lens through which the "light of the world" shines eternal. Listen carefully, my friends.
Reviewer: Paula Shreckhise
“Make today count.” Words that Vivienne Mourdant wanted to live by. In this magnificent, soul-stirring novel, Vivienne finds what it means to truly make a difference no matter in what circumstances she finds herself. A lost melody haunts her as she strives to piece together the memories and bring them to light. The search leads her to Hurstwell Assylum, where she hires on as an aid. But what she finds is unsettling, and she sees the patients sometimes more sane than the caretakers. One inmate reminds Vivienne that the Apostle Paul ministered from prison.
Music was a language that resonated throughout the story. “Music was at the core of all humans. A rhythm. A steady beat. And there was a song to match every beat.” This was a glimpse into the very beginnings of music therapy.
Dr. Turner intrigues Vivienne with his compassion and caring, yet he, too, is shrouded in regret. He encourages her to use her talent as a pianist and her love of music to help those who seem beyond help. To shine as a light in the darkest of places. “What God has set ablaze, no man can extinguish.”
There is so much symbolism and wisdom to be gleaned from this haunting tale. “Music and silence. Light and dark. When it came to darkness, you could succumb and let it consume you...or you could invade it with a light of your own.” The depiction of the asylum was so vivid you could feel the despair and gloom. But then light and hope burst forth, and a sense that God was with Vivienne despite what seemed to be.
Definitely a story to ponder long after it is read.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell on behalf of the author. I was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.
Reviewer: Winnie Thomas
“An odd thing happened when one carried a giant weight of troubles all her life—she built up a great deal of strength.”
When I start a new book by Joanna Davidson Politano, I know I’ll be in for a great read. The Lost Melody is no exception. Although this story has a gothic feel to it, the main theme is the triumph of light over darkness. When concert pianist Vivienne Mourdant’s father dies, she finds herself with the responsibility of someone she doesn’t know—Rosamond Swansea, a woman supposedly a patient at Hurstwell Asylum. As Vivienne goes to the asylum to investigate, she finds herself trapped there. With the help of Doctor Mitchell Turner, Vivienne starts to see the patients differently.
“There is no such thing as hopeless cases. Only those who have lost hope.”
Politano’s signature faith elements, beautiful prose, and superb storytelling combine to make an unforgettable and moving tale that will stay with me for a long time. She is one of my must-read authors, and her books always land on my keeper shelf.
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy from Revell. All opinions are my own.
Reviewer: Nora St. Laurent
This story was a little different from the other novels this author has penned. I love her writing style, the depth she goes with her characterizations, and the unique situations readers get to be part of.
It begins in 1886, England, where we meet a famous concert pianist, Vivienne Mourdant. Her father has just passed (no love lost there), and she finds out she is responsible for a woman in the Hurstwell Asylum. Vivienne has never heard of this woman. She has to uncover the secret behind this ward situation. So, she goes to work for the Asylum to gain information the average person cannot find. The Hurstwell Asylum is the last place she wants to be, but her desire to find this mysterious woman is strong. She pushes on and gets more than she bargains for.
The author notes that the research about the Victorian asylums was hard to read, and she didn't want to spend time there. She decided to join the Asylum setting with an intriguing story idea. The author was enthralled by how music therapy came about. She says, "Music therapy syncs with the natural rhythm at the core of all humans and taps into the beauty and personhood found there."
Although the narrative inside the Asylum is dark in parts, hope and courage flicker inside through the thoughtfulness of the inmates and the music only Vienne Mourdant can express. Vienne showed and felt kindness was never a waste of time.
I did enjoy the encouragement, and natural spiritual thread sprinkled throughout the story and the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. Like this one, "The language of music is common to all generations and nations; it is understood by everybody, since it is understood with the heart," by Gioachino Rossini.
Parts of this story were spooky and eerie, yet hopeful. It gave the reader insight into that time, which included a few surprising plot twists. This is a good read for the Halloween season and would work for your next book club pick. There is so much to discuss.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I requested and received a copy of this book by Revell through Interviews & Reviews. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255, "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Reviewer: Susan Feaster
I was first attracted to this book by its title - The Lost Melody. Then I was captured by the beautiful cover and completely captivated as I began reading.
This is the story of Vivienne Mordant. A concert pianist whose father has recently died, leaving her with the care of someone she has never met, a resident at Hurstwell Asylum. As Vivienne seeks to discover the identity of this person, she eventually ends up there as a resident herself.
This compelling story is beautifully written, giving us an insightful look into the Victorian Era. A combination of mystery, romance, and a little humor makes this one hard to resist!
I particularly enjoyed all the allusions to music, which perfectly fit with a book about a concert pianist. For example, Vivienne (chapter 1) referred to herself as a "Chopin nocturne - surprising, complex, and impossible to master." The book's sections are divided into "movements," much like a sonata or a concerto. And each chapter begins with a quote from a famous musician.
"The language of music is common to all generations and nations; it is understood by everybody, since it is understood with the heart." - Gioachino Rossini (quote from chapter 23).
Joanna Davidson Politano has given us the language of music in this book, which is beautiful! Five stars for sure!
I received a copy of this book from Revell through Interviews & Reviews and Net Galley. The opinions expressed here are my own.
Reviewer: Mindy Houng
"There is no such thing as hopeless cases. Only those who have lost hope."
Once again, Joanna Davidson Politano captures a haunting, melodic first-person voice of a concert pianist and melds it beautifully with a soulful, hurting third-person voice of a doctor in a memorable tale of faith, justice, and the power of music set in a Victorian asylum of 1886 England.
It is more gothic than her previous novels, and the setting of an asylum is not easy, but it's so worthwhile to read. The undercurrent of mystery woven through the book is seamless and well-done. Though not a suspense or mystery per se, the plot will definitely have you turning the pages with anticipation as pieces click into place. You will absolutely love this book if you enjoy historical Victorian fiction with a dash of romance.
Vivienne's musically-centered heart and soul were fascinating to learn from, and her passion for helping oppressed women was admirable. Mitchell's broken yet hopeful spirit was quite the drawing point for this wonderful hero. Their spiritual journey was rocky and painful, but the growth it produced was remarkable. And there were some surprises, for sure - in cameo appearances of characters from a previous book and the ending where we find all the answers.
I received the book from the publisher and was under no obligation to post a positive comment. All opinions are my own.
Reviewer: Laura J. Davis
"Things were different than I'd envisioned for my life, but I'd let circumstances paralyze me for too long when before they had always mobilized me. Inspired me to act. My heart still wished to pursue normalcy, freedom, and my idealized set of circumstances, but this was my locked larder now, and merely enduring it would be a waste of life and heart."
If one's soul can burst forth in song, then mine did when I read those words by Joanna Davidson Politano. I never thought how much I would empathize with her character Vivienne Mourdant. My life changed so much last year due to illness. Like Vivienne, I had no control over my own life. I had to let go and trust that God had a plan. The author has renewed my spirit more than she knows.
Joanna has masterfully given life to those who had no voice and has captured the essentials of the human soul. The story and its characters are so perfectly thought out and well developed that you will be hard-pressed to believe you are not a patient of Hurstwell yourself. Her cast of characters is unique and varied, each with a story to tell that will tug at your heartstrings. It is as if the author stepped inside an asylum and lingered there watching while she told this story.
And what a story it was! The conflicts and struggles of patients kept in asylums during the Victorian Age are brought to life in this gripping novel. From the beginning, you will feel the battle Vivienne goes through. You will experience her despair and frustration. The author brilliantly catapults the reader into the maddening darkness of an asylum and leads us to find God's light. You will be inspired, encouraged and moved to remember that God always has a plan, even when you are in the darkest of places.
I cannot recommend this book enough!
I received a review copy courtesy of Revell through NetGalley for my honest opinion.
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