….by Colin Insole

Is now being republished: see here:

Previous reviews:

Colin Insole’s “The Appassionata Variations,” like his story for The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies, conjures up a world of Gothic cruelty, but the prose here is much stronger, creating an atmosphere of decadent corruption that is, in and of itself, sufficient reason to recommend the story to audiences who value such things.

“That section, like so many others in the sonatas, holds the mirror up to the blackness and emptiness within them. You play these pieces at your peril.” So says the piano tutor in Colin Insole’s “The Appassionata Variations”: a rich, moody reminiscence about music lessons during the war. This is evocative storytelling that reads like a classic and has plenty of gothic shivers in store.

I also eagerly anticipated Colin Insole’s ‘The Appassionata Variations’ as his ‘The Apoplexy of Beelzebub’ was such a highlight of ‘The HA of HA’ and it didn’t disappoint. A pianist recalls the sinister Absolom Street where he took piano lessons with Miss Amelia Loten during the Second World War under the shadows of the brooding Hotel Promethean.

‘The Appassionata Variations’ is set in a strange world where Mr Hoffman is the Beethoven virtuoso at the Hotel Promethean, the story told from the viewpoint of one who might be his illegitimate offspring, with matters of music and paternity interweaving, Insole’s writing assured and the composition as a whole unsettlingly off kilter. — Black Static

EDIT: 23.11.13: my own review of this story in comments below.



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  1. My review of THE APPASSIONATA VARIATIONS: The Appassionata Variations
    “I would hear the faint strain of a gramophone — a Chopin nocturne or one of the late string quartets of Beethoven.”
    I earlier published this story in my own imprint, so I am biased. But this story soars, as only prose of indulgent hedonism and decadence (have I used that word decadence before in this review?) can soar. And then fall with the swell of a ‘dying fall’. This has the genius loci of mid twentieth century Absalom Street and its crescent (crescendo?) Hotel Promethean with its back corridors and smells and those glimpses again, here glimpses of music, leading to the air raids and Elizabeth Bowen’s blitzed buildings where she sat writing meticulously, but with carefree abandon, her fractured prose, her gem-like sentences, as Insole does, too. But above all, none so sublime as the moments of Beethoven’s Hammerklavier et al coming off the page, those variations that weren’t meant to be heard and that possibly change the course of everything, as from Elise to Therese, and I think of Insole’s stories in the same way, reaching levels of fiction that we other writers can only create the templates for.
    But above, or below, even that, this story treats of the misalliances of heritage, who belongs to whom, whose mother, whose father, whose sibling, in the skein of characters here variating, if that’s a real word. And I shall encapsulate that with this phrase: Music as Miscegenation.

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