It’s late 1920s when Nathaniel, a virtuoso pianist with limited social skills, is delighting his audience, not knowing that some hours later his life would change drastically: in the after-party he would meet his future wife, Frances Bellmont, and his career as one of the best piano concertists would fade away.
The other part of the story is set at the Bellmonts’. Whitmore Bellmont, Frances’ little brother, is a talented boy on the art of drawing who is in love with the maid’s daughter, Jesselle, a black young girl who has been taught by Mrs. Clare Bellmont all the school subjects she couldn’t have learned otherwise because of the color of her skin. The relationship between Whitmore and Jesselle must be kept secret, as well as the lessons Mrs. Bellmont schedule every day for Jesselle, because the society of their time would raise Cain if they knew.
Finally, there is a young widow called Lydia, who eventually would know the rest of the characters, when she decides to leave the farm she has always lived in, in order to master the piano.
Tess Thompson, one of my favourite romance authors, has surprised us, her fans, by writing a historical fiction novel this time based on the life of her great-grandmother, which has been a pleasure to read.
From several points of view, the story shows a portrait of that time, regarding human rights, education, arts, and the beginning of the movie industry, with a wealthy southern family in the center. Every one of the characters has a unique voice and, even when each one has their own conflicts to solve, all of them converge throughout the narration, interconnected in the overall story.
However, my favourite has been Nathaniel; I felt really sorry for him when he had to stop playing music and give up his fascinating career as a concertist only to be stuck in a marriage where love was absent. I also enjoyed Jesselle’s story; a girl divided between two worlds, fighting for growing up and make her dreams come true, with her only two weapons against the world: her love for Whitmore and her will to learn.
With the issues it addresses and the charming characters the novel has, I think most readers will be captivated by Duet for three hands as much as I was.