A novel of great wit and empathy, one that provides a deep insight into the composition of both classical music and historical literature through playful, inventive prose ... [Griffith] is keen to experiment with form, as well. Occasionally, he will think better of a choice he has made and reset the scene, doubling back to allow it to play out differently and take the narrative in a different, more suitable direction ... While these tactics could easily have come off as cheap gimmicks, they succeed because underneath the cleverness Griffiths has constructed an emotionally resonant story about the nature of artistic collaboration and communication ... By marshalling factual information to create an entirely plausible false reality, Griffiths shows that on some level, all history is just a story we cobble together by interpreting the available facts in the way that seems plausible to us ...By combining deep scholarship with a broad-minded, philosophical viewpoint, Griffiths has written a thought-provoking novel about possibility that pushes us to think hard about what we know and how we know it.
... [a] quixotic and original work of historical fiction ... Mr. Beethoven is the work of a skillful and imaginative writer, gifted at evoking the sights and sounds, the custom and attire, of an earlier era. He has clearly done his homework with regard to both Beethoven and early 19th-century Boston ... As a novel, Mr. Beethoven is a fluent yet idiosyncratic diversion. Does it in addition newly illuminate Beethoven or Boston? More the latter than the former ... [a] bold imagination.
Masterly and witty ... There’s plenty that happens, including a close friendship between Beethoven and a widow, and tension with the fussy minister who wrote the libretto, but the most exciting part of the story is the imaginary oratorio. Everything feels authentic musically and historically, due to the author’s wise use of primary sources, including Beethoven’s own letters ... This wild quilt of styles brings a very human giant of the Classical and Romantic periods vividly to life.