A richly imaginative novel of love, loss, time and the rise and fall of a great maritime empire, that sends two thwarted lovers spiralling through the chaos of history.
The story begins in 1429 on Madeira, when a peasant girl meets a boy- a Jewish outsider- from a Portuguese sailing ship. Esperança and Emmanuel know they must part when the ship sails. From that first meeting and parting, others follow...
Emmanuel is in turn sailor, mapmaker, bookseller, jazz musician; Esperança an illiterate peasant, a rich girl in Faro and a clever, bookish recluse who confronts a murderer in nineteenth-century Lisbon. In twentieth-century London, Esperança is faced with a double incarnation, one of the true Emmanuel and the other a shadow. Over the centuries the couple face peril and tenderness. Each life is short. What survives is love.
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Traversing time and geography, Lee Langley's original and life-affirming novel Distant Music elegantly weaves together four independent stories, each unveiling the common themes of love, loss and the irrevocable progress of time.
Beginning on the Portuguese island of Madeira in 1429 and culminating in London in 2000, the four tales introduce us to the recurring characters of Esperanca and Emmanuel whose love is continually thwarted by social and religious divides. Esperanca is a Portuguese Catholic, Emmanuel a Jew, and their first meeting in Madeira in the 15th Century sees Esperanca as a poor, illiterate peasant girl, captivated by a young, mysterious Jew who arrives on a boat from Portugal and teaches her to read Hebrew. The twin themes of words and learning provide the glue that binds together their different meetings throughout the novel. The learning of new words acts as a metaphor for self-discovery, adolescence and first love, but also as a means of recording scientific discovery and exploration. The lovers are cast together and then torn apart against a backdrop of Portugal's great maritime empire. An elderly Esperanca encounters Christopher Columbus as he prepares to discover the New World and, in a later incarnation, Emmanuel is an assistant to a map maker whose maps reveal the world's un-navigated waters in the same way as Esperanca's newly-learnt words disclose the unexplored terrain of the soul.
Although there is the suggestion at each new meeting that the lovers have met before, this is not a story about reincarnation. Rather, it is a celebration of the defiant power of love and its ability to overcome displacement and prejudice. From the anti-Semitism experienced by the Jews in Madeira and Portugal in the 15th and 19th centuries to the loneliness or "saudade" of the Portuguese immigrant community in modern-day London, love, although not always able to conquer all, will at least resurface to offer new hope. --Jane MorrisReview:
"A rich, evocative novel...Haunting and magical" (Daily Mail)
"Lee Langley has a marvellous ability to evoke places...With originality and elegance she carried me enthralled into disparate, related and brilliantly illuminated worlds. Distant Music is a little masterpiece" (Sunday Telegraph)
"One can almost feel the scent of orange blossom, the brilliance of the sun reflected on the sea, the ripe grape on the vine, the intoxicating atmosphere of romance and passion" (Independent)
"Thoughtful and inventive...Elegantly written and quietly affecting" (Sunday Times)
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Book Description Vintage, 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P11009943346X