The Silver Swan

Publication Date: May 19, 2015

240 pp

Trade Paperback

List Price US $16.95
Trim Size (H x W): 5.5 x 8.25
ISBN: 9781590517161


List Price US $16.95
ISBN: 9781590517178

A debut novel about a daughter grappling with the legacy of her famous and imposing cellist father, the secrets he has hidden from her, and the fate of his Stradivarius

Alexander Feldmann is a revered and sought-after performer whose prodigious talent, striking good looks and worldly charm prove irresistible to all who hear and encounter him. After years of searching, he acquires a glorious cello, the Silver Swan, a rare Stradivarius masterpiece long lost to the world of music.

Mariana is Alexander’s only child and the maestro has large ambitions for her. By the age of nineteen she emerges as a star cellist in her own right, and is seen as the inheritor of her father’s genius. There are whispers that her career might well outpace his. Mariana believes the Silver Swan will one day be hers, until a stunning secret from her father’s past entwines her fate and that of the Silver Swan in ways she could never have imagined.

Excerpt from The Silver Swan

Claude and Francine separated to greet the other guests. They knew William Rossen, of course, and Claude’s concert manager. People were drinking, talking, and plucking hors d’oeuvres off trays passed by the catering staff. As he circulated, Claude looked for Mariana. He caught a glimpse of her in shadow at the far end of the room. Leaning against the window with a drink in her hand, staring down at the glittering city, she seemed very much alone. Her rigid posture, turned away from other guests, did not invite conversation. Relieved to know she had, after all, come, Claude had to shift his attention to a man at his elbow, who introduced himself as a board member of Lincoln Center.
[ . . . ]

As soon as he was able to disengage himself, Claude walked toward Mariana, coming up behind her and looking over her shoulder at the view. His face reflected back in the window, as did hers. He could smell the delicate fragrance she wore.

She was silent as she took a step forward and turned her face toward his. Their eyes met for several moments before Claude moved back and smiled at her. “You are as lovely as your father always said you were.” Still, she said nothing. “Tell me, Mariana, did you approve of my playing tonight? I felt I was playing in your father’s memory, to honor him. And I was also playing for you, knowing you were there. It matters very much to me what you thought.”

“Yes, my father would have approved,” she said coolly. “Apparently, he was immensely proud of you.” Now she dropped her eyes and took a sip of her drink.

“Ah, do you say that because he spoke of me?”

“My father spoke almost exclusively about himself.”

The Silver Swan…is an enthralling tale about music and the passions it inspires…[Elena Delbanco’s] fast-paced plot is handled with virtuosic flair, and the characters are intriguing onstage, backstage and offstage. Told with respect, humor and affection, The Silver Swan offers insights into those who maintain and sell precious stringed instruments and those who live to play and own one.” —The Washington Post

“Delbanco’s whirlwind debut novel immediately immerses readers in the rarefied world of classical music performance…readers with an enthusiasm for classical music will be swept away by this detailed, enthralling tale.” —Publishers Weekly

“[Elena] Delbanco’s lively tale alternates between the points of view of Mariana and Claude, as the two are forced to confront their desires while dealing with the expectations forced upon them and secrets from the past and present that inevitably collide.” —Booklist

“I’ve just finished reading an advance copy of The Silver Swan by Elena Delbanco and while still burning from the white heat of the final sequences I wanted to tell you, and anyone else who will listen, just how magnificent a first novel this happens to be. It’s a tortured and passionate love story about a father and daughter and the musical heritage they share, centered on a treasured object, a Stradivarius cello that gives the novel its title—and it’s a family story with an astonishing secret at its center. The prose flows beautifully from beginning to end, as though this were Delbanco’s tenth novel rather than her first. The musical lore her story allows us access to will charm all lovers of classical concertizing. The love stories—there are several of them, each inextricably entwined with the other—will thrill all readers for whom the deepest human passions make the best melodies. I may be the first person to tell you this. I’m sure I won’t be the last. A gorgeous debut that anyone who loves life and art will be thrilled—I’ll say it again—thrilled to read.” —Alan Cheuse, Book Commentator, NPR

The Silver Swan by Elena Delbanco is an intimate, passionate, triumphant story of love and betrayal. Mariana—the devoted child of a world-famous cellist who has promised her the Silver Swan, an invaluable Stradivarius—discovers secrets in her father’s life that shake her world. Fast-paced and beautifully structured, Mariana’s story—full of intensity—is one of depth, sexuality, and surprise.” —Susan Richards Shreve, author of You Are the Love of My Life

“How artfully Elena Delbanco writes about love and music and how deftly she explores the alliances and conflicts between the two.  Best of all are her characters: vivid, complicated, passionate and flawed.  I couldn’t stop turning the pages of this beautifully written and irresistible novel.” —Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy
“Elena Delbanco’s wonderfully absorbing novel presents a Stradivarius cello at its center, and a cast of intense characters who lust after it.  The Silver Swan offers a shrewdly plotted story of the passions of musicians for their instruments—as well as for each other.  A striking first novel by an author who knows her subject intimately, and relishes it.” —Lynne Sharon Schwartz, author of The Writing on the Wall 

“At the intersection of art and money, there are many collisions, and Elena Delbanco’s The Silver Swan is wry and wise about its particular world: that of musical performers, their possessions, and their investments, in every possible sense of that word. This is a novel of love and the intrigues that follow upon it, and its central figure, the swan, like the Maltese Falcon, gives a special significance to everyone who desires it. A wonderful read.” —Charles Baxter, author of Gryphon: New and Selected Stories

“A must-read for all who wonder what passions and sorrows take place backstage at Carnegie Hall and in the lives of those who have chosen music over almost everything else.” —Cécile David-Weill, author of The Suitors 

“A taut, engrossing novel of secrets, betrayal, and the seductive and tormenting force of brilliance.” —Vivien Shotwell, author of Vienna Nocturne

“Other Press is showcasing a truly amazing spring season. The Silver Swan is an impressive debut novel. The passion, drama, and intrigue incited by a rare Stradivarius makes for a compelling tale. When the coveted instrument is left to a maestro’s star pupil, rather than his daughter, dark family secrets are revealed, passions are incited, and family loyalties are betrayed. Book clubs will find plenty of discussion material with The Silver Swan.” —Pamela Klinger-Horn, Magers & Quinn Booksellers (Minneapolis, MN)

“Alexander Feldmann is a handsome, charming, world-renowned cellist, and the owner of a rare Stradivarius cello, the Silver Swan. Mariana, his only child, grew to become a gifted and sought-after cellist herself. As her father grows older, Mariana leaves her life behind to care for him in his final years. Upon his death, Mariana learns that he has left his prized Silver Swan to a former student. Bound by their relationship to the Silver Swan and Alexander, Claude and Mariana’s lives become entwined. As dark secrets from her father’s past emerge, Mariana begins to question the relationship with her father, his relationship with Claude, and the legacy of the Silver Swan. This is an amazing debut from Elena Delbanco.  Her characters are complex and passionate, and their tale is intense and beautifully flawed. You needn’t have traveled the world’s famous music halls to fall in love with The Silver Swan.” —Susan Schlesinger, Books on the Square (Providence, RI)

“Marianna Feldmann is an only child who grew up in a musical family and whose father was a world class cellist. Delbanco weaves a tale that gives insight into the passion of those whose lives are dedicated to music. A fascinating look into a world that only a few experience. A lovely story, but not without loss and disappointment. Loved it!” —Stephanie Crowe, Page & Palette (Fairhope, AL)

1. Describe the influence Alexander Feldmann holds over Mariana’s life. How is it similar to his influence over Claude’s life? How is it different?

2. What does Mariana inherit from her father? What does she end up doing with this inheritance? What does she inherit from her mother, if anything?

3. What kind of childhood did Mariana have? How is it different than the one Claude had?

4. How does Mariana’s understanding of her parents’ marriage influence the decisions she makes when she learns Claude may be marrying another woman?

5. On page 176 Pilar accuses Mariana of “flirting with [her] father,” and thwarting their marriage. Why do you think Pilar accuses her daughter of this? How does her mother’s jealousy affect the relationships Mariana has with men?

6. The Stradivarius was Alexander’s most prized possession. What is the significance of Mariana inflicting such extensive damage on it? How is the place the instrument held in Alexander and Mariana’s relationship similar to the place it holds in Claude and Mariana’s relationship?

7. When Claude performs for Mariana she tells him to “Make the dog howl” (p 218), just as her father had told his own students. What is the difference between Mariana’s and Alexander’s approach to teaching? Do you think the novel supports one approach over another?

8. When Mariana played for Claude she “reach[ed] into the depths of the meditative, prayerful line, drawing out each phrase until she reached the final, whispered note” (p 219). What place does music ultimately hold in Mariana’s life?

9. For most of her life Mariana is known as “the maestro’s daughter” (p 163). How is she finally able to escape from the legacy of her father’s work and genius? Had her father not died, would she have been able to find the kind of stability and success she achieves at the end of the novel?

10. Mariana describes herself as being “transported by [music] to a place of beauty and solace” (p 228). What is your experience of music? How does it compare to your experience of reading and literature?