Review: Rhapsody by Mitchell James Kaplan

☆☆➹⁀☆ 3 stars ☆➹⁀☆☆

About the Book:

One evening in 1924, Katharine “Kay” Swift—the restless but loyal society wife of wealthy banker James Warburg and a serious pianist who longs for recognition—attends a concert. The piece: Rhapsody in Blue. The composer: a brilliant, elusive young musical genius named George Gershwin.

Kay is transfixed, helpless to resist the magnetic pull of George’s talent, charm, and swagger. Their ten-year love affair, complicated by her conflicted loyalty to her husband and the twists and turns of her own musical career, ends only with George’s death from a brain tumor at the age of thirty-eight. 

Set in Jazz Age New York City, this stunning work of fiction, for fans of The Paris Wife and Loving Frank, explores the timeless bond between two brilliant, strong-willed artists. George Gershwin left behind not just a body of work unmatched in popular musical history, but a woman who loved him with all her heart, knowing all the while that he belonged not to her, but to the world.



My Thoughts:

Rhapsody is a story about music, love, infidelity and all that jazz.  The highly stylized writing feels as melodious as a Gershwin (and Swift) tune.  It takes place in New York City between 1925 and 1937, and it features the long love affair between Mrs. Kay Swift Warburg and George Gershwin. Like the mistresses of other famous, successful men in history, Kay is both enriched and broken by her love of Gershwin.

I was intrigued by the idea of a historical fiction about Gershwin, but I didn’t fall in love with the characters or the tried-a-bit-too hard writing style.  The lush descriptions of music and society coupled with the name dropping challenged my interest in the book.  Sometimes, a little mystery helps keep the adoration going, and for me, I wish I didn’t know what a womanizer Gershwin was, and I wish I could have given Kay Swift a lecture about her life choices.  There are so many conflicting aspects to Gershwin and Swift’s relationship.  Swift is inspired intellectually and artistically by Gershwin, and her association with him doesn’t hurt her aspirations of being a composer and pianist. However, Gershwin, like her husband, is not faithful, and ultimately their relationship cannot truly provide Swift with the support, acknowledgement and love she desired.  

I applaud author Mitchell James Kaplan for shining a spot light on Kay Swift’s talent and contributions to Gershwin’s career.  The author’s research into his topic and the era is evident, which made for an interesting, if not uplifting, book.  I can honestly say that I’ll never listen to a Gershwin tune the same again.

About the Author: Mitchell James Kaplan is a cum laude graduate of Yale University, where he won the Paine Memorial Prize. His first mentor was author William Styron. Following college, he lived in Paris and Southern California. Currently he lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. 

​Mitchell James Kaplan’s 2010 novel, By Fire, By Water, won numerous literary awards both domestically and abroad. Into The Unbounded Night, a novel of first century Rome and the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, will be out in September, 2020 (Regal House). Rhapsody, a novel about Kay Swift and her 1920s Broadway circle, including her lover George Gershwin, will appear in 2021 (Gallery / Simon & Schuster)

© Copyright 2021 Book Junkie Reviews. All rights reserved.

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