Liszt's Kiss

A Novel

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About The Book

The romantic story of a young female pianist in cholera-ravaged Paris of 1832, whose own tragedy leaves her susceptible to the passions and scandals of the composer Franz Liszt

At the height of the Romantic era in Paris, there was no bigger celebrity than the composer and pianist Franz Liszt. A fiery and gorgeous Hungarian, he made women swoon at soirees and left a trail of broken hearts behind him. Anne, a countess and talented young pianist whose mother has just died of cholera, hears Franz Liszt in concert and is swept up in his allure. The enigmatic Marie d'Agoult, a friend of Anne's late mother, takes her under her wing and introduces her to the artistic world -- despite the objections of Anne's sullen and sorrowful father.

Anne soon finds herself in the midst of dangerous intrigues, discovering a family secret so shocking that her father will go to any lengths to protect it.

With the ominous presence of Paris's most deadly epidemic looming over every turbulent event, Liszt's Kiss is a rich evocation of a remarkable period as seen through the eyes of a sensitive young artist.

Reading Group Guide

Liszt's Kiss
1. At the beginning of the novel, Anne is not allowed to go out into society. She is living in a "comfortable prison" (pg. 1)...hardly questioning the "narrowness of her confines." (pg. 2) At the same time she is being encouraged by her mother to become an accomplished pianist. Do you think one can become a great artist without knowledge and acquaintance with outside society? Why, or why not? Do you think Anne's experiences in the novel lead her to become a better artist? Does society dilute or enrich her talent, and if so, how? What does Anne gain through her dealings with society, and what does she lose?
2. Music, in general, plays a large part in the novel and in the lives of the characters. What does music mean to Liszt? How is it a means to an end, an art form, a way to express himself and seduce? Why is music so important to Anne? What role does it play in her life? What does music mean to Marie, to Pierre, to Anne's father? How does music bring the characters together in the novel? How does it tear them apart?
3. Intrigue, hidden and ulterior motives, and deceit are part of the world of 1832 Paris. Do you think intrigue is particular to the upper class in the novel? If so, why might that be? Why do the characters choose not to be honest with one another? What do the various characters have to lose by being honest?
4. The novel is set against the backdrop of the cholera epidemic. What does this bring to the story? If one took out the cholera epidemic, how would the story change? In addition, the disease could be viewed as a metaphor in the novel. For what is this a metaphor?
5. Love and money are bound together in the world of the novel. Find examples of this in the lives of the characters. What role does money play in the life of Anne, in the life of her mother? Is love or money more important to the characters? Explain.
6. Liszt tells Delacroix that in Hungary, "They feed us nectar, and teach us to love, above all else. It is the very soul of art." (pg. 15) If this is so for Liszt, how does he manifest this sentiment in the story? What insight does this quote give us into Liszt's dealings with women? What do you think is the relationship between love and music for Liszt? Does this excuse him from the trouble he brings to the other characters whom he involves in dangerous entanglements? Why or why not?
7. Women were known to faint upon hearing Liszt perform. Anne, herself, swoons and faints when she hears him play. Why do you think this happens? To what are the women reacting? Why do you think so many women found Liszt attractive, writing him with "declarations of undying love...and invitations to amorous assignations"? (pg.16) Are Anne and Marie attracted to him for the same reasons?
8. Liszt has every opportunity to become involved with Anne, however, it is Marie whom he desires. Why do you think he is more interested in Marie than Anne? What attracts him to Marie?
9. Love and death are major themes in Liszt's Kiss. Discuss the relationship between love and death in the novel. How are they similar, different? What is the author trying to say about their relationship?
10. Anne's father does not want her associating with artists and musicians even though it seems that the best in society frequents the salons. Why do you think he wants to keep his daughter away from this circle? Why does he allow her to perform at Marie's salon?
11. Marie d'Agoult takes Anne under her wing. Do you think she helps Anne or hurts her and how? Do you empathize with Marie? Why or why not? Who is the hero in the novel and why? Who is the antagonist and why?

About The Author

Susanne Dunlap is the author of Émilie's Voice and the former director of development for Connecticut Opera. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and Northampton, Massachusetts.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Touchstone (April 2007)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781416539643

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