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Head of Zeus
The Conductor
The Conductor Sarah Quigley

The Conductor reads like a proper up-all-night page-turner, but it also goes deeper than that, conveying the extraordinary life-saving properties of music, and hope' – Bella Bathurst. The story of how Shostakovich and one valiant orchestra created a defining moment in the siege of Leningrad is a gripping testament to the life saving power of music.

June 1941: Nazi troops surround the city of Leningrad, planning to shell and starve the people into submission. Most of the cultural elite is evacuated, but the famous composer Shostakovich stays behind to defend his city.

That winter, the bleakest in Russian history, the Party orders Karl Eliasberg, the shy, difficult conductor of a second-rate orchestra, to prepare for the task of a lifetime. He is to conduct a performance of Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony – a haunting, defiant new piece, which will be relayed by loudspeakers to the front lines.

Eliasberg's musicians are starving, and scarcely have the strength to carry their instruments. But for five freezing months the conductor stubbornly drives on his musicians, depriving those who falter of their bread rations. Slowly the music begins to dissolve the nagging hunger, the exploding streets, the slow deaths... but at what cost? Eliasberg's relationships are strained, obsession takes hold, and his orchestra is growing weaker. Now, it's a struggle not just to perform but to stay alive.

Head of Zeus * Fiction
17 Jul 2012 * 304pp * £5.99 * 9781908800824
REVIEWS
'An extraordinary period of history brought to life by a daring novelist ... Superbly imagined and brilliantly realised'
Lloyd Jones
'[An] up-all-night page-turner... conveying the extraordinary life-saving properties of music, and hope'
Observer
'An extraordinary period of history brought into proximity by a daring novelist... Superbly imagined and brilliantly realised'
Lloyd Jones
'Deserves to be mentioned alongside Jane Smiley, Andrea Levy and Rose Tremai'
Sunday Herald
'Extraordinary ... a symphony on the power of love – the love of music, home, family, city... A triumph on every level'
New Zealand Herald
Author
Sarah Quigley
Sarah Quigley
Sarah Quigley is a New Zealand-born novelist, poet and critic. She has a D.Phil. in Literature from the University of Oxford, and has won several awards for her writing. Since winning the Creative New Zealand Berlin Writers Residency in 2000, Quigley has been based in Berlin.
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