The Education of Delhomme Nancy Burkhalter review eARC

(ad, gifted) The Education of Delhomme – Nancy Burkhalter: Review & Recommend | LATEST RELEASES

I was gifted a free eARC* of this book by the publisher, via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. I was contacted by the publishers, who informed me of this book and asked if I would be interested in reading and reviewing, which I then acquired via NetGalley.

*eARC: electronic Advance Review Copy

Title: The Education of Delhomme
Author: Nancy Burkhalter
Publisher: History Through Fiction
Release Date: 14th November 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3 stars

When the publishers contacted to me to inform me about this upcoming release, and ask if I would be interested in potentially reviewing it, I was really intrigued. I went ahead and downloaded it from NetGalley, and then promptly left it sat on my Kindle for several months until the publication date was closer. The problems of a book blogger, right?

The Education of Delhomme is heavily based in real history, with actual events and people cropping up throughout the narrative. The protagonist and his character arc, however, are fictional, which I admit did disappoint me somewhat. Almost all of the other characters in this book are based on real historical figures, however, and at the end of the book there is some information on the different characters and their real lives. This is a part of the publisher’s attempt to market their books as separate from other historical fictions: they are more influenced by real history. For me, however, given that the main character was entirely fictional, I struggled to really know how much historical knowledge I should be taking from the narrative itself. While I knew the characters were real, and the events that took place were real, I’m still not sure if the figures discussed in the narrative were actually involved in these events in the ways they are in the book. The extra reading section at the back was a nice touch that isn’t often present in historical fiction, but that was presented more as a further reading list than a bibliography, so I’m still unsure if the articles listed would shed more light on how much of the book was accurate in terms of the character’s participation in the events that occur.

When I moved away from thinking about the historical accuracy of the narrative, I enjoyed the plot itself a lot more. Mostly told from the perspective of the protagonist Beaulieu Delhomme, Chopin’s (fictional) piano tuner, it forms a sort of rags-to-riches (and back to rags) tale. Delhomme fails in his training as a doctor due to a proclivity for vomiting at the sight of entrails, and falls in as an apprentice to a piano tuner. A poor man, Delhomme is struggling to make ends meet when he is approached by Vidocq and asked to act as a spy on behalf of the King. As the narrative progresses and Delhomme is dragged further and further into the entanglement of espionage he has fallen into, it becomes unclear who he is actually working for, and who is spying on whom. It was this narrative of confused morals and uncertain futures that kept me reading on, along with the promise of the inclusion of the French Revolution, which is a driving force of the narrative.

If it weren’t for the plot, I’m not sure that I would have finished this book. I found the characters themselves quite weak, and none of them really captured my attention at all. As a person who loves character driven books, weak characters is a big pitfall for me, and I struggled to find much to grasp hold of to connect to. The passages in George Sand’s voice were almost unbearable for me, and I considered skipping straight through them. Sand was an incredible writer, so I find it hard to believe that her personal voice (her sections read a little like diary entries) would be so unsophisticated and petulant. This sort of brings me on to the writing style, which is something else that didn’t impress me. While it’s fine to write unlikeable characters, they should still be brought to life in an interesting manner, something that a first person narrative can really offer the opportunity to do, but it just didn’t happen at all. The sections in the voice of George Sand were for me the worst parts, stylistically, but Delhomme’s voice wasn’t particularly well-written either.

The Education of Delhomme Nancy Burkhalter review eARC

While the writing style and the characters were definitely lacking for me, the author’s passion and knowledge for music certainly came through, which I did enjoy. It felt to me like the music and the pianos were the most well-drawn characters in the book. The descriptions of piano tuning, its processes and what it can achieve were really interesting to me. The discussions in the book about different musician’s styles of playing, and how that can affect the way the piano should be tuned, or even what piano should be played, was cool to learn about, and the author’s passion for Chopin’s music was evident.

Overall though, I wasn’t really that impressed with this book. I enjoyed aspects of it that was just enough to keep me reading until the end, but I was really let down by the characters and the writing style itself. I also wish that there was more information provided as to which elements of the book were fiction and which were real, because I didn’t really feel as though this was set apart from any other historical fiction in that regard. To truly be set aside from historical fiction, I feel as though it would need to be entirely based in historical fact, a biography told in the form of a story, if you will.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This review also published on NetGalley.

One thought on “(ad, gifted) The Education of Delhomme – Nancy Burkhalter: Review & Recommend | LATEST RELEASES

  1. […] The Education of Delhomme – Nancy Burkhalter (GIFTED). 3 stars.The publishers contacted me to make me aware of this book, and I then received a free digital copy from NetGalley to review. It’s a historical fiction, following the fictional Beaulieu Delhomme, piano tuner to Chopin. The story takes place during a period of great political turmoil in France, and it’s obviously very based in real events.Find my review here (gifted review). […]

    Liked by 1 person

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