The Patent Clerk's Violin
A luthier in Bern, Switzerland is asked to repair a Patent Office clerk’s violin which has inexplicably lost its tone. This chance meeting in 1904 begins the friendship of two very different people – the one immersed in his physical craft on a daily basis, and the other obsessed with key problems facing the world of physics at the dawn of the 20th century.
The book is set in the months leading up to Albert Einstein’s “Miracle Year” when he published four ground-breaking scientific articles. During this period, Albert is busy with his day-to-day workload at the Patent Office and is a new parent; however, his mental experiments in physics are always at the forefront of his thoughts. The luthier, Carl, is struggling with a heavy workload, a long-distance marriage, and increasing dissatisfaction with his routine job. The two are also friends with the musician and budding artist, Paul Klee. Somehow, Carl and Albert manage time for music and play together in a local quintet. Carl also becomes involved in the mystery of a valuable violin bow that strangely appears in the hands of a local student and discovers its connection to Albert’s violin.
Plot/Idea: 8 out of 10
Originality: 8 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 9 out of 10
Overall: 8.75 out of 10
Plot: This novel’s focus on famed and fascinating figures is immediately compelling. After a somewhat sluggish start, the novel intelligently develops, offering a storyline that shows the author’s awareness of historical circumstances, Einstein’s biographical details, and a sense for dramatic tension.
Prose/Style: Ackley's prose is well constructed. The work is serious, but with a whimsical tint.
Originality: The historical fiction involving a friendship between an artisan and Albert Einstein makes compelling reading. The wonder evinced by Carl in listening to Einstein's dialogue about the stars is masterful.
Character Development: The characters in Ackley's novel are varied and interesting, and the protagonist and his dreams garner reader empathy. The historical titan of Einstein will always draw in a reader, but Ackley’s research into and reverence for the complex, revered figure, is apparent.
Date Submitted: August 18, 2019