I received an advanced review copy of this book for free via Book Sirens. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way.
Elizabeth Kirtenpepper loves the opera. But she never wanted to be in one. Certainly not a real-life opera. So, when a strange magical twist of fate transports her into The Marriage of Figaro, Elizabeth finds herself swept out of the orchestra pit and into the scullery of the ruthless and domineering Count Almaviva.
Stuffed into a corset and forced to wear impractical shoes, Elizabeth meets Figaro, Susanna, and the whole cast of memorable characters, but no one is sticking to their story, and a strange, hooded villain is running through the estate, unravelling every bar line and fermata of Mozart’s score! Elizabeth will soon have to summon her own inner diva to vanquish calamities from leprosy and sexual politics to revolutions in Spain. But the reticent little pianist from Kansas may just end up changing her own story as well, when she discovers that everything she ever really needed to know. . . well, she learned it at the opera.
I love opera and I have often thought that more of those stories would deserve a modern retelling, so when I saw this book up for review I knew I had to read it!
Elizabeth Kirtenpepper is a coach and accompanist who loves music, playing the piano, and helping young opera singers find their voice. After receiving some devastating news and receiving a mysterious book, she somehow finds herself thrown straight into The Marriage of Figaro.
I haven’t read many time travel stories recently, and I certainly enjoyed that element. So many of the situations Elizabeth finds herself involved in as a modern woman stuck in 18th-century Spain were equal parts terrifying and hilarious. I particularly enjoyed all the humourous elements that were laced throughout! The setting felt very real and the descriptions helped bring the daily routine on Count Almaviva’s estate to life.
I also really enjoyed Elizabeth’s flashbacks to episodes from her real life as they helped me to truly understand her and give depth to her character and appreciate her growth. There is a big cast of secondary characters, both from the original and some new entries. I liked the character dynamics playing out between most of them, and a few made it all the way to favourites of mine, but I would have liked to see a little more depth to some of the characters who came across as a little one-dimensional.
I had loads of fun with the plot! I was familiar with the story of the original opera, so I wasn’t thrown by the large cast, and I really enjoyed seeing all the ways in which the story playing out on page was veering off track… and all of Elizabeth’s attempts at bringing it all together. Some scenes were absolutely hilarious, but there was plenty of time for reflection and enough space was left for the painful experiences. There is a healthy dose of musical jargon in here, which I really liked as it helped lend authenticity to Elizabeth’s thoughts but, even if you’re less familiar with it, fear not for the author included some very helpful notes to guide readers! The major plot points in the original opera are also fleshed out here, so even readers who are unfamiliar with the original or don’t remember all the details can fully enjoy this without fear of missing some crucial element.
Although I ended up enjoying the book, I had some serious issues getting into it at first. The pace starts off very slow and there is a lot of setting the scene and introducing the characters in which not much else happens. The book then starts to suddenly pick up the pace until almost flying through the explosive ending. This does tend to somewhat follow the structure of an actual opera, but ended up making some sections very hard to read and struggled to hold my attention for a while. There were also quite a few repetitive passages throughout that contributed to this.
Overall, Elly Uncomposed is a highly original and very pleasant read sure to delight both opera lovers and non-fans!