January 8, 2015

Book Review: "Dissonance," by Lisa Lenard-Cook

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Dissonance, by Lisa Lenard-Cook

By Lisa Lenard-Cook
Santa Fe Writer's Project
Reviewed by Jason Pettus

I've discussed here before the inherent challenge I feel about doing critical looks at Holocaust fiction -- that although you can't just stand up one day and say, "Okay, that's it, we have enough novels about the Holocaust now, and we really don't need anymore" (after all, the Holocaust is the very definition of a story that should be endlessly discussed until the end of time, simply so that the story is never forgotten), nonetheless it makes it very difficult as a literary critic to do an actual honest literary criticism of any particular new one, because the story is just so familiar by now, and the impetus to "never forget the past" can manytimes clash badly with the equally important impetus as an author to write an entertaining and thought-provoking three-act narrative story that is fresh and original. And so it is with Lisa Lenard-Cook's new Dissonance as well, although to her credit she at least attempts to approach the story in a new way; it's ostensibly the story of a contemporary piano teacher in Los Alamos, New Mexico, who mysteriously one day learns that she is the recipient in the will of an elderly Jewish composer she's never met, discovering that she has inherited a series of original songs on sheet paper that have never been performed and that the general public largely is not aware of, her quest to track down their origins taking her into the story of this elderly composer's time at the concentration camps as a youth. But that said, the book indeed suffers from the exact problem I'm talking about, that it was a chore to get through precisely because I already knew every single story beat that was going to happen well before I ever turned the next page, which is problematic when you're presenting your story as a mainstream novel instead of as a history textbook; and so I will do the wimpy thing I always do in these situations and simply give the book an exact middle-of-the-road score, because I am uncomfortable giving a piece of Holocaust fiction a score that's either too high or too low, even though Dissonance deserves them both simultaneously. This should all be kept in mind before you pick up a copy yourself.

Out of 10: 7.5

Read even more about Dissonance: Official site | Amazon | Goodreads | LibraryThing | Shelfari

Filed by Jason Pettus at 10:02 AM, January 8, 2015. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |