A fact-based historical novel set primarily in New York City in the 1920s and '30s and inspired by the decade-long relationship between the celebrated composer George Gershwin and Kay Swift, who was both his romantic partner and a gifted musician in her own right.
Kaplan delicately stitches together the notes of Gershwin and Swift’s nontraditional love song with the constant, glamorous hum of the Roaring Twenties playing in the background. Snappy dialogue and lush prose bring the Jazz Age to life as Kaplan takes readers from Harlem rent parties to the stage lights of Broadway ... Kaplan also uses the historical setting and characters to briefly explore conversations about topics that remain relevant today, particularly antisemitism and the appropriation of Black culture by white people for artistic gain. A sumptuous fictional account of a complex real-life romance, this book will stick in readers’ heads like the melody of a favorite ballad.
Kaplan builds an enchanting world ... Kaplan’s meticulous research is evident throughout, and the pages glitter with the names of such musical luminaries as Richard Rodgers, Duke Ellington, and Fats Waller, who provide a glamorous backdrop to the narrative, punctuated with major world events: the Great Depression and the ominous gathering storm of fascism in Germany. This spellbinding and luminous tale will linger in readers’ minds long after the final page is turned.
Abetted by its often omniscient narration and long passages of historical context, the novel seems intent on hewing as closely to nonfiction as possible. The history is engrossing, particularly to students of early Broadway—there’s name-dropping aplenty in this and other cultural and political arenas ... Although Kaplan’s propulsive style imparts a momentum of its own, narrative tension is all but absent—the Warburg marriage is not exactly a hell demanding escape, and Gershwin is not exactly a port in a storm. The many disquisitions, on topics as varied as the underpinnings of American anti-Semitism to the misappropriation of Black culture by well-intentioned Whites, are interesting and important, but they do interrupt the novel’s flow ... The characters’ star turns are upstaged by the vastness of the set.