Lev's Violin

Lev's Violin
Published : 1 Apr 2021 - Penguin
From the moment she hears Lev's violin for the first time, Helena Attlee is captivated. She is told that it is an Italian instrument, named after its former Russian owner. Eager to discover all she can about its ancestry, and the stories contained within its delicate wooden body, she sets out for its birthplace, Cremona, once the hometown of famous luthier Antonio Stradivari. This is the beginning of a beguiling journey whose end she could never have anticipated.
Making its way from the cobbled streets of sixteenth-century Cremona, through cool churches, glittering courts, and little coastal opera houses, LEV'S VIOLIN takes us from the heart of Italian culture to its very furthest reaches. Its tale of princes and orphans, virtuosos and fraudsters, collectors, composers, travellers and raconteurs, swells to an enrapturing meditation on the power of objects, stories and music to shape individual lives and craft entire cultures.


Utterly enthralling - a beautifully-written voyage of discovery that takes us deep into the heart of music-making.

Deborah Moggach

A readable, well-written, charming and original example of the history-sleuthing genre of non-fiction. The book leads the reader with a light touch through matters and histories that might seem esoteric, but are in fact consistently intriguing because of the very personal character of the telling. Attlee has the natural story-teller's gift.

Stephen Walsh

This is a beguiling and truly original book...Attlee has such a wonderful way with words that as a reader you almost imagine you can see, as well as hear, Lev’s violin.

Daily Mail

Attlee tells [this] story in easy, luminous prose, infused with a deep understanding for the way human value accrues mysteriously in things, and in the act of making them.

The Telegraph

[Attlee] has proved already, in her superb THE LAND THE LEMONS GROW, the strength of her empathy with the moods and pulses of Italian culture, moving across the peninsula’s different landscapes in the guise of an explorer rather than simply another educated tourist. In LEV'S VIOLIN she does this again... Attlee’s writing has borne us forward with such seductive fluency, such a captivating sense of incident and place...

Jonathan Keates, Literary Review

...an original and refreshingly unorthodox approach to history.

The Guardian

Attlee writes with rare beauty and sensitivity about music, and her love of Italian culture positively sings from the pages, making this a deeply absorbing 'violin-shaped version of Italian history.'

BBC Music Magazine

The author knows Italy well. Her love and unbounded enthusiasm for the country shine through the pages. She writes with zest about her sleuthing odyssey, her investigations into the art of lutherie and the dynasties dedicated to the crafting of these delightful objects. Whether it be a distant family history, the timber forests of the Dolomites or a momentary encounter, Attlee captures it in firm, fresh prose.

The Spectator

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