Frances Thorn, waitress and single parent of twins, finds herself transformed by the dazzling magnetism of Helle Ten Brix, an elderly Danish composer of opera. Helle’s final opera is willed to Frances—a life-changing legacy that compels Frances to unravel the mysteries of Helle’s story and, in so doing, to enter the endlessly revolving, intricate world of her operas.
With almost every sentence this book seems to be struggling with new takes on new emotions. Sometimes you come to them with a shock of delighted recognition; sometimes you're left alienated ... Davis writes of a love between equals that still has tragic modulations. This is the real thing, caught in a language that hovers enticingly between the laconic and the poetic ... Neat triangles and heavily symbolic images work because Davis has learnt to use metaphor in an attractive Nabokovian way, both flamboyantly upfront and much too mysteriously personal to be ironed out by the eye of the critic ... Davis gains our emotional and intellectual trust. And when the novel's denouement arrives, with its shots in the night and unexpected deaths in a sudden, symbolic downpour, we can appreciate the moment in many ways ... The thick layers of this novel only become transparent once you have reached the end and tripped over the tragedy. But re-read it, and you are struck by the piquant harmonies all the parts make. For once, this is a novel with secrets, one that repays work, and its prose is exquisitely rhythmic and open-ended.
Witty, literary ... It can be appreciated for the vivid imagery contained in these stories within a story, as well as for the mystery and love triangle of the plot that frames them. Both story lines weave together themes of doubting and sex-role reversal.