My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I'm not a lover of fictionalised accounts of real peoples lives but I seem to have picked up a few recently. This was a book club read and I did manage to finish it. Barnes as usual writes well and has clearly done his background reading of the Shostakovitch biographies which he references in the Afterward, but I can only ever wonder which parts are truth and which are the fiction. What he does do well is expound upon the questions of courage and cowardice, conscience and survival, Power and art. At times it reminded me of Kafka, or of Solzhenitsyn. It does however read well the reader does not really need to know much about this musician to go with the flow of the novel and I mean that as a plus point. Mainly written as an interior monologue Barnes covers the denunciation of Shostakovitch, his visit to the USA and his joining of the Communist Party. Since this final act is a humiliation beyond all the others the story line is a sad one of a fearful artist, manipulated by and submitting to political dogma.