Forward by Michael Chabon
Galileo is thrilled to be re-issueing a classic and a masterpiece from an author who has been criminally neglected for the last 30 years. However the evangelism of his former pupil Michael Chabon, and the attentions of dedicated admirer Philip Pullman have started to restore this writer’s reputation as a major novelist. Herma is Harris’s most ambitious work and a towering achievement.
Herma is many things: a glamorous story of a singer who rises from the choir of a country church to stardom at the Paris Opera: the parallel adventures of her agent and friendly enemy Fred Hite, filled with the excitement of the early days of aviation; and a provocative sexual intrigue whose twinned her and heroine, not brother and sister, are forbidden to each other by the secret that lies at the center of their odd and intimate relationship. From its evocative beginnings in the pastoral Southern California of the turn of the century, Herma moves on to larger worlds--first the brash, adolescent San Francisco of the period, then the Earthquake, then the international world of opera in Paris at the most luxurious, opulent, and decadent moment of its history. Erotic, bejeweled, crowded with incident and a big, vivid cast of characters, Herma is MacDonald Harris's richest and most complex novel and destined to be his most popular.
Critical Acclaim for the first edition of Herma in 1981:
This enchanting historical novel, which begins with the crack of a whip in a Victorian buggy and ends with an apocalyptic dog-fight in a World War I biplane, is a novel about aviation. It is also a novel about opera, indeed the most sumptuous one ever attempted, with full-blown portraits of luminaries such as Caruso and Puccini as well as detailed expositions of operas and vocal techniques...What makes Herma a significant and delightful breakthrough for Harris is a new range of technique and feeling...Herma is an exhilarating work, surely one of the brightest of the season, by a superb craftsman working at the peak of his form. The shadow of mortality that spreads out at the end lurks implicitly from the beginning, a necessary counterpoint to the novel's vibrant and magical affirmation of life."
Jack Sullivan, Washington Post Book World
"A talented writer produces his finest novel...Herma is fascinating, touching, and immensely entertaining. It is Mr. Harris's ninth novel in 20 years of steadily sharpening skills and it outreaches all the work that he has done before...It is much superior to E. L. Doctorow's Ragtime.
Edmund Fuller, The Wall Street Journal.
"This is, by any reckoning, an extraordinary novel, and a delightful one...A romance of Nabakovian subtlety and audacity written in language of shining precision...Surely one of the best novels about opera ever written, with a range of tone and feeling worth of some masterwork by Verdi, Herma has another element: magic."
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