The Variations

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Pub Date 7 Sep 2023 | Archive Date 31 Aug 2023

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Description

Selda Heddle, a famously reclusive composer, is found dead in a snowy field near her Cornish home. She was educated at Agnes’s Hospice for Acoustically Gifted Children, which for centuries has offered its young wards a grounding in the gift – an inherited ability to tune into the voices and sounds of the past. When she dies, Selda’s gift passes down to her grandson Wolf, who must make sense of her legacy, and learn to live with the newly unleashed voices in his head. Ambitious and exhilarating,

The Variations is a novel of startling originality about music and the difficulty – or impossibility – of living with the past.

For fans of A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa, The Chimes by Anna Smaill and Piranesi by Susanna Clarke



Selda Heddle, a famously reclusive composer, is found dead in a snowy field near her Cornish home. She was educated at Agnes’s Hospice for Acoustically Gifted Children, which for centuries has...


Advance Praise

‘A skilfully told story about inheritance and inspiration, music and time. Langley has a fine eye for detail and scene-making, and The Variations is full of startling observations and images.’

— Martin MacInnes, author of In Ascension

‘A skilfully told story about inheritance and inspiration, music and time. Langley has a fine eye for detail and scene-making, and The Variations is full of startling observations and images.’

—...


Available Editions

EDITION Paperback
ISBN 9781804270509
PRICE £14.99 (GBP)
PAGES 440

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Average rating from 18 members


Featured Reviews

This is a book I will read again.
I really liked how music, instruments and radios also became storytellers and voices in the book. Beautifully written and very atmospheric. The cold setting just adds.
Seldie and Wolf are family but also artists and it's their story too.
A unique book.


One very minor grizzle- Americanised spellings

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The Variations was an intriguing and atmospheric work that was part homage to music, part family drama, part magical realism and part a thoughtful reflection on how we deal with the past. There was a lyrical feel to the writing, almost dreamlike at times, and the story held my interest throughout as we moved between the three characters' POVs. This is definitely a work that will stick in my mind long after reading, and I recommend it to readers looking for a music-inspired literary fiction read. I would certainly pick up more books by this author in the future, and I am giving The Variations 4.5 stars.

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Before writing a review, I am delighted to say I am very thankful to Fitzcarraldo Editions for sending me an e-copy for an honest review!

Selda Heddle, a well-known composer, is discovered dead in a wintry field near her Cornish house. She was schooled at Agnes' Hospice for Acoustically Gifted Children, which has been providing its young wards with a foundation in the gift - a hereditary capacity to tune into the voices and sounds of the past - for generations. Selda's gift is passed down to her grandson Wolf, who must make sense of her legacy and learn to live with the newly unleashed voices in his head after she dies. Exciting and ambitious.

As a music lover and a cellist, I can say that I really liked this book. It was the first book I’ve read by Patrick Langley but it won’t be the last one! I am looking forward to read other publications by him, and I am very thankful to him for writing a book, a masterpiece like this!

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The Variations by Patrick Langley is a novel of startling originality about music and the difficulty—or impossibility—of living with the past. The story follows Wolf, a young man who inherits a strange gift from his grandmother, Selda Heddle: the ability to hear the voices and sounds of the past. When Selda dies, Wolf is overwhelmed by the cacophony of voices in his head, and he must find a way to make sense of his new reality.

The Variations is a beautifully written novel that explores the power of music to connect us to the past, the present, and the future. Langley's prose is lyrical and evocative, and he creates a vivid sense of place and time. The characters are complex and well-developed, and the plot is both suspenseful and thought-provoking.

One of the most striking things about The Variations is its exploration of the relationship between music and memory. Langley shows how music can be a powerful tool for accessing our memories, both good and bad. The voices that Wolf hears in his head are often from his own past, and they force him to confront memories that he has been trying to forget. But music can also be a source of comfort and healing, and it helps Wolf to come to terms with his grandmother's death and his own place in the world.

The Variations is a novel that will stay with you long after you finish reading it. It is a story about the power of music, the importance of family, and the difficulty of living with the past. I highly recommend it.

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“They claimed they could remember only the sensation, overwhelming but not unpleasant, of being surrounded by other people; not just the dozens in the guildhall, but thousands […] of singers, making earth and heaven shake with their collective song, which, despite its volume and its magnitude, had a whisper-quiet quality to it, like the faintest rustle from a million distant wings.” Patrick Langley’s dazzling new novel The Variations, out 7 September from Fitzcarraldo Editions, is a tremendous feat of storytelling, an ode to song itself and a thrilling saga about the legacies of family, both creative and traumatic, the pursuit of a life devoted to craft and gifts, and that creative spirit as both a force and a burden. It opens with ‘Frau Trauffea’, my much-loved Strasbourg dancing plague, but recast as a primarily singing plague, and from there moves through three focal characters — Ellen, Wolf, and Selda — each of whom is connected in life, and each of whom has ‘the gift’, an ability to hear their dead ancestors through song. The novel, elegiac and haunting, almost describes itself in its pages: “A sonata only in the loosest sense. A cycle in three main moments. In length it approaches an epic but its real concern is the stuff of songs, of ballads even: what takes place when people meet, how it changes who they are.” It is so lyrically and so compellingly written, and profoundly moving. I really loved reading it. “We don't know the song but we know how it starts and ends. Out of and back to silence.”

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