And After the Fire

And After the Fire

A Novel

Book - 2016
Average Rating:
Rate this:
A masterful new novel from the bestselling author of "City of Light" and "A Fierce Radiance." Susanna's beloved Uncle Henry leaves behind a cryptic note that alludes to his haunting WWII experience as an Allied soldier in Germany. On his deathbed, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach bequeaths Sara the score of one of his father's cantatas. Sara is stunned to see its violently anti-Semitic lyrics. Weaving together the stories of Susanna and Sara, Lauren Belfer creates a majestic narrative that spans lifetimes and continents, encompassing both the best and the worst of the human spirit.
Publisher: Toronto : HarperCollinsPublishersLtd, ©2016.
ISBN: 9781443448628
Characteristics: 451 pages ;,23 cm.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
May 06, 2019

Great author; great read!

Oct 24, 2018

Readers (like myself) with a passion for classical music and the spectacular accomplishments of the great composers will love this book. It also helps to be at least passingly accustomed to the German language with its sound, structure and rhythms, so that the frequent insertion of phrases in that language doesn't interrupt the flow. Readers for whom neither of the foregoing conditions apply might find it a bit daunting; too bad, because this is a darned food yarn predicated on a delicious "what-if": the discovery of a previously unknown composition manuscript by J. S. Bach.
Research for such a bold novel would necessarily be extensive, multifaceted and meticulous; in this, Lauren Belfer does not fall short. Of particular note is her exploration of the pernicious influence of German Lutheran teaching in supposed "Christian" attitudes toward Jews, a topic that many traditional protestants will find objectionable. Sometimes historical facts are inconvenient.
Belfer's development of her main characters is uneven; I found it difficult to warm up to her protagonist Susanna. Her sexual assault added nothing of relevance to her persona or to the story; it was almost a needless distraction. She comes across as earnest and well-meaning but her inquiry into her own family history was coolly detached and unconvincing. Both Dan and Scott seem to be one-dimensional figures. But where Belfer really shines is in her development of Sara Itzig Levy, a real, living, breathing person; even though she only appears a few times, Sara's personality illuminates the whole book. Some of Belfer's minor characters add a welcome bit of spice, notably Mueller with his religious angst and compulsive need to convince others of his beliefs. And best of all, the mendacity of Fournier the glory hound, desperate to insert himself into whatever sensational discovery was afoot.
Belfer does not indulge in fine prose; much of her writing is flat, even dull. Hence four stars rather than five. But in the light of her other great accomplishments in constructing this cultural scavenger hunt, I'm willing to forgive such minor failings. Altogether, an engrossing and enjoyable book.

Mar 16, 2017

I learned some historical details that I found interesting. The writing was disappointing.

Mar 06, 2017

I started reading this book because I thought that the subject matter may be interesting. I found the book to be superficial and for the most part irrelevant. There was really nothing to the story and the ending was extremely weak. I would have appreciated a lot more detail about Bach's life and also about Mendelssohn. The most interesting part of the book was Sara's story but again there was very little real substance to the storyline. The anti-semitism in 19th century Germany was a lot more serious than was portrayed. Lea would never have baptized her children had there not been a lot more to it than was portrayed in the book. There also wasn't a real conclusion to Susanna's family history either. All she did was a little search with her computer if she really wanted to find out about her family she could have approached all sorts of databases to find out what had happened to her family so even that aspect of the novel was left incomplete. Overall I found the book very disappointing.

Feb 02, 2017

To my mind the book was less about music and more about the tensions between the early Lutherans, their modern descendants and Jews. Whilst I was aware of some of the anti-Jew prose in the St John Passion I was not aware that such sentiments were to be found in the cantatas. I found the descriptions of Jews in Prussia, having to protect themselves by conversion, disturbing. Modern parallels spring to mind.....

Jan 26, 2017

the previous comment states that a reader interested in romantic German composers would like this book. Bach was not a "romantic composer", although I concede he was German. The novel is well written and well plotted, in my opinion, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys good, serious writing.

Sep 28, 2016

While this text has an interesting and unique premise, the plot is a little disorganized and confused. At times, the author seems to forgo the plot in order to overly detail the music. I felt more interesting details were overlooked or ignored. I would recommend this text if you are interested in romantic German composers.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at Library

To Top