Saturday, March 27, 2021

Review: Rhapsody by Mitchell James Kaplan


Rhapsody by Mitchell James Kaplan
Gallery Books
Publication Date: March 2nd, 2021
Hardcover. 352 pages.

About Rhapsody:

"One evening in 1924, Katharine “Kay” Swift—the restless but loyal society wife of wealthy banker James Warburg and a serious pianist who longs for recognition—attends a concert. The piece: Rhapsody in Blue. The composer: a brilliant, elusive young musical genius named George Gershwin.
Kay is transfixed, helpless to resist the magnetic pull of George’s talent, charm, and swagger. Their ten-year love affair, complicated by her conflicted loyalty to her husband and the twists and turns of her own musical career, ends only with George’s death from a brain tumor at the age of thirty-eight.
Set in Jazz Age New York City, this stunning work of fiction, for fans of The Paris Wife and Loving Frank, explores the timeless bond between two brilliant, strong-willed artists. George Gershwin left behind not just a body of work unmatched in popular musical history, but a woman who loved him with all her heart, knowing all the while that he belonged not to her, but to the world."

Although I've read a few books set during the Jazz Age of New York City, I've never read anything that includes the lives of the musicians Katharine "Kay" Swift and George Gershwin. Actually, in general, the only person I'd heard of prior to this book was Gerswhin, and I had no knowledge of Kay or her husband's roles--which of course made me that much more intrigued by the premise!

The narrative largely follows Kay and starts off in 1924 before jumping back to 1917 to begin Kay's story anew. Kay is a woman that I would describe as being rather complex and ambitious, as well as someone with an abundance of passion and passion for what she loves. I loved learning about her connection to her music and about her past before meeting Gershwin and beginning their rather tumultuous and controversial affair. 

We get to meet such a wide variety of characters, both well-known and not, and I loved how dynamic this cast was and how much it brought the entire setting to life. The dialogue and interactions between characters felt very fitting for the time period and I found myself becoming interested in almost all the characters we meet, whether main character or side character. In particular, it was of great interest to get to know Kaplan's depiction of Gershwin and Kay's husband, James Warburg, through their interactions and relationships with Kay and the world around them.

I don't personally know all that much about the figures presented in this book, but it seems apparent that Kaplan put a great deal of time and research into developing this story and portraying his characters. Kaplan also does an excellent job of creating an immersive atmosphere of the time period, especially when Kay visits various places and explores the Jazz Age of the period. Something that I always love and hope for in any historical novel is getting to hear about current issues of the time through the lenses of whatever characters, class status, or setting we follow in the main narrative, and I was so pleased to get these glimpses with this book as well. 

It took me a little while to fully get into this book, but once I got to know the characters and setting I found myself full captured by this story. Kaplan has an oddly unique style of writing in that there's something about it that feels slightly elevated and also very poised and exact. The author clearly knows what they're doing and also knows how to craft a narrative style that matches the tone of the book and the characters and themes explored within, and I really enjoyed how much this helped to cement the atmosphere and setting of the novel.

Overall, I've given Rhapsody four stars! If you enjoy historical fiction--especially learning about lesser known historical figures--then this is absolutely a book I would recommend!
 *I received a copy of Rhapsody courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.* 


Buy the book: Amazon | IndieBound


  1. This really sounds good. I tried to learn Rhapsody in Blue on the piano but never got very far, lol. But I love the idea of a story involving the people in Gershwin's life.

  2. The Jazz Age in NYC is such an amazing setting! Glad you enjoyed this one!