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Leona Francombe
The Universe in 3/4 Time: A Novel of Old Europe

Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

When a mysterious World War II piano appears on a Brussels street one winter’s night, no one could have imagined the events it would set in motion—least of all Audrey Nightingale, the pianist who comes across it. The instrument, of finest rosewood, bears the name of an obscure Czech manufacturer, and inside it, someone carved a Pythagorean symbol. Audrey convinces two musician friends to help her make sense of this portentous discovery. At the heart of their quest is an extraordinary man: Konstantine Zar, charismatic philosopher-musician from Prague who, during the darkest months of the Occupation in the 1940s, mesmerized his fellow students at the Brussels Conservatory with ideas of universal harmony and the redemptive power of music—antique concepts once revered that must, Zar urged, be revived, to counter the depravity and violence into which Europe was slipping. From the cobbled backwaters of old Brussels to a Black Forest hideaway…from ghostly Prague to a remote cabin in the Pyrenees, Audrey and her companions set off to uncover the explosive truths behind the abandoned piano, a journey that illuminates not only Zar and his miraculous love story, but also forgotten secrets of music known to the ancients.
Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 9 out of 10
Overall: 9.00 out of 10


Plot/Idea: The Universe in 3/4 Time A sweeping, fast-paced story filled with danger, intrigue, and a mysterious piano that will captivate readers.

Prose: The prose is elegant and drives the plot forward effectively, while terms associated with music provide additional verisimilitude.

Originality: The Universe in 3/4 Time is an original, intriguing story that spans decades--centuries, in some cases -- with a captivating story that will keep readers guessing. There are moments when the plot leans a bit too heavily on the theoretical aspects of music and Pythagoras (and Zar's philosophy), but overall, Francombe delivers a memorable, far-reaching, and unique tale.

Character/Execution: The characters are, for the most part, complex and artfully developed individuals. The reader will especially enjoy the rag-tag team that joins together in Nero's van to race across Europe. 


Date Submitted: August 09, 2023

Readers' Favorite

Reviewed by Tracy Traynor for Readers' Favorite

Five Stars

In "The Universe in 3/4 Time" by Leona Francombe, a perpetual night walker, Audrey Nightingale comes across an abandoned piano on the streets of Brussels. She hasn’t played the piano since a mysterious disaster happened three years ago. Her fingers are drawn to the keys. She plays, and her soul awakens. Only, when she looks up, is she being stared at by a dark stranger? Unnerved, she hurries to her favorite café. Once a member of the acclaimed Kepler Players, she hasn’t seen the other two members since their last fateful night together. But music calls her to save the piano, and she can’t do it alone. She picks up her mobile and dials. In a way, what follows is a treasure hunt to save the piano. The treasures she finds are a cabin in the Black Forest, a castle on a hill, new friends, a puzzle to solve, and the most important one—a reconciliation with old friends. As it is with stories that float on the memories of war, traces of sadness lace the chapters that are otherwise vibrant and full of life.Wow, what a book! Leona Francombe is both a musician and a lover of music. The history of the war in Europe, and even more insightful, the history of Kepler and his writing “The Harmony of the World” pour through the pages, giving us a breathtaking glimpse into the love of everything musical. Leona's writing style is among the best I’ve ever read. "The Universe in 3/4 Time" abounds with mystery and the dream of musical romanticism. The twisty plot is delightfully revealed, and the star pinning the tale together is a Czech piano, unassuming in looks and dripping with intrigue and secrets. Best line from the book—'beauty is the only antidote to war.' In this stunning work of fiction, the ghosts of the past walk hand-in-hand with the spirits of today. It is a magnificent blend of modern-day and the 1940s and more. Leona Francombe’s work deserves to be read again and again. Fabulous from start to finish!