St. Martin's, Dec 2008, $24.95
In 1827, Irish wannabe actress Harriet Smithson hopes to become a famous performer receiving accolades for her work. She also refuses to sleep with influential men to get ahead as she believes in her talent. To make it she joins a Shakespearean troupe touring France. In Paris composer Hector Berlioz sees her but though he desires her and believes he is in love, he keeps his distance and worships her from afar.
Over the next few years he places his beloved on a statue, but makes no efforts to meet her. Finally five years after he saw his muse, they meet. Berlioz successfully courts her and they marry. However, instead of a passion of the hearts, he remains obsessed with the object of his affection. As the real Harriet crumbles from her lofty pedestal in his mind driving him deeper into obsessive psychosis he scores the revolutionary music masterpiece "Symphonie Fantastique"
With a strong sense of time and place especially the backdrop of a troubled, revolutionary yet passionate Western Europe a decade plus since the Congress of Vienna of 1815, SYMPHONY is a fabulous biographical fiction that focuses on the relationship between Smithson and Berlioz. Their marriage is unstable because he is unstable; yet ironically his volatile fixation and her revolting lead to one of the classics of music. This is an insightful winner as love can easily prove to be madness.