Why did I love this book?
In 1936, Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich is spending every night in a hallway by the elevator, ready for the secret police he’s sure are coming for him. By the end of the novel, he’s publicly celebrated, but the requirements of government approval weigh as heavily on him as government threats. What, both Barnes and Shostakovich himself ask, might his music have been like under different circumstances? “The last questions of a man’s life do not come with any answers; that is their nature. They merely wail in the head, factory sirens in F sharp.” Barnes’s slim, swift novel offers no easy answers as it examines how moral compromise corrodes a life and deforms that life’s work.