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Winner of the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize. In a finely woven series of flashbacks and correspondence, Lev Termen, the Russian scientist, inventor, and spy, tells the story of his life to his “one true love,” Clara Rockmore, the finest theremin player in the world. In the first half of the book, we learn of Termen’s early days as a scientist in Leningrad during the Bolshevi Winner of the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize. In a finely woven series of flashbacks and correspondence, Lev Termen, the Russian scientist, inventor, and spy, tells the story of his life to his “one true love,” Clara Rockmore, the finest theremin player in the world. In the first half of the book, we learn of Termen’s early days as a scientist in Leningrad during the Bolshevik Revolution, the acclaim he receives as the inventor of the theremin, and his arrival in 1930s New York under the aegis of the Russian state. In the United States he makes a name for himself teaching the theremin to eager music students and marketing his inventions to American companies. In the second half, the novel builds to a crescendo as Termen returns to Russia, where he is imprisoned in a Siberian gulag and later brought to Moscow, tasked with eavesdropping on Stalin himself. Throughout all this, his love for Clara remains constant and unflagging, traveling through the ether much like a theremin’s notes. Us Conductors is steeped in beauty, wonder, and looping heartbreak, a sublime debut that inhabits the idea of invention on every level.


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Winner of the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize. In a finely woven series of flashbacks and correspondence, Lev Termen, the Russian scientist, inventor, and spy, tells the story of his life to his “one true love,” Clara Rockmore, the finest theremin player in the world. In the first half of the book, we learn of Termen’s early days as a scientist in Leningrad during the Bolshevi Winner of the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize. In a finely woven series of flashbacks and correspondence, Lev Termen, the Russian scientist, inventor, and spy, tells the story of his life to his “one true love,” Clara Rockmore, the finest theremin player in the world. In the first half of the book, we learn of Termen’s early days as a scientist in Leningrad during the Bolshevik Revolution, the acclaim he receives as the inventor of the theremin, and his arrival in 1930s New York under the aegis of the Russian state. In the United States he makes a name for himself teaching the theremin to eager music students and marketing his inventions to American companies. In the second half, the novel builds to a crescendo as Termen returns to Russia, where he is imprisoned in a Siberian gulag and later brought to Moscow, tasked with eavesdropping on Stalin himself. Throughout all this, his love for Clara remains constant and unflagging, traveling through the ether much like a theremin’s notes. Us Conductors is steeped in beauty, wonder, and looping heartbreak, a sublime debut that inhabits the idea of invention on every level.

30 review for Us Conductors

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    "As the music rose up, it also vanished. Sometimes it is like this, listening to music: the steady bars let you separate from your body, slip your skin, and you are standing before the shuttering slides of memory." I loved this book! I came across it by accident but was surprised I hadn't heard of it, seeing as it won the Giller Prize in 2014. I'm always a sucker for novels with music in them in some way. In Us Conductors, Sean Michaels takes the basic story of the inventor of the theremin and tu "As the music rose up, it also vanished. Sometimes it is like this, listening to music: the steady bars let you separate from your body, slip your skin, and you are standing before the shuttering slides of memory." I loved this book! I came across it by accident but was surprised I hadn't heard of it, seeing as it won the Giller Prize in 2014. I'm always a sucker for novels with music in them in some way. In Us Conductors, Sean Michaels takes the basic story of the inventor of the theremin and turns it into a fictionalized account with spies and romance and science! This might be the only novel I remember switching frequently into the second person, something I like in creative non-fiction quite a bit, and I liked it here too. Halfway through, I went to Naxos Music Library to look for theremin music to accompany the rest of the book. To my surprise, the first two results were recordings of Clara, the Clara of the book, the love of his life, playing the theremin. It was a strange, wonderful soundtrack to accompany my reading. Highly recommended!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chuck Erion

    When the winner of this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize was announced Nov. 10, I wasn't alone in my surprise. Sean Michaels, a first-time novelist and music blogger, took home a cheque for $100,000 for "Us Conductors" (Random House Canada, 347 pages, $26 hardcover). Michaels was up against seasoned writers: Miriam Toews, Frances Itani, Heather O'Neill, David Bezmogis and Padma Viswanathan. The Giller remains Canada's premiere fiction prize — not least because of its increased purse — but seems more When the winner of this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize was announced Nov. 10, I wasn't alone in my surprise. Sean Michaels, a first-time novelist and music blogger, took home a cheque for $100,000 for "Us Conductors" (Random House Canada, 347 pages, $26 hardcover). Michaels was up against seasoned writers: Miriam Toews, Frances Itani, Heather O'Neill, David Bezmogis and Padma Viswanathan. The Giller remains Canada's premiere fiction prize — not least because of its increased purse — but seems more targeted to awarding new talent than choosing the "best" book. So I picked up a copy of "Us Conductors" and read it in the lull between Christmas and New Year's. In choosing the father of electronic music to write about, Michaels tapped his own musical interests (he has toured with a rock band and lectured on music and journalism). Léon Theremin (1896-1993) was the American name of Lev Terman, a Russian physicist and inventor of the eponymous theremin, among many other instruments and detecting devices. His life story was certainly ripe pickings for a novelist. An early genius and admirer of Lenin, as an exploited inventor he got to travel to Germany and the United States in the late 1920s to commercialize the theremin. He returned to Russia before the Second World War and was sent to the Gulag. He was sent back to Moscow and was part of a secret laboratory where he developed a listening device that was installed in U.S. ambassador Averell Harriman's office. Theremin continued to work for the KGB until 1966, then taught at the Moscow Conservatory of Music. He again travelled to the US in 1991 and was reunited with Clara Rockmore, who had been the first star performer on the theremin. You can learn all this from Wikipedia, which I felt required to consult after I finished "Us Conductors." In his author's note, Michaels says as a work of fiction, his novel is "full of distortions, elisions, omissions and lies." I needed to go where the boundaries of truth and imagination lay. This is part of an emerging trend: we read now with one hand on the book, or e-book device, and the other checking the internet for any reference that needs exploring. That we are doing so with devices that depend on the early discoveries of electronics is an intriguing irony with "Us Conductors." Even the title is loaded: a theremin performer is "conducting" the airwaves between two antennas to manipulate the pitch, timbre and pulse of the musical tones that the device amplifies. A spy is someone who "conducts" overheard conversations, sifting them for valuable secrets. And lovers respond to each other as "conductors" of emotional vibrations. It is this last definition that forms the core of Michaels' story of Theremin. The book is written as a long love letter addressed to Clara. Though he left a wife behind in Russia, Leon is swept into the Jazz Age in New York, partying with the wealthy who hope to invest in his invention and (in Michaels' version) the likes of Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Igor Stravinsky. He falls in love with Clara Reisenberg, a Russian émigré and violinist. Her solo career is cut short when her bowing arm becomes too painful, but Leon's theremin allows her to continue on the stage, manipulating the air rather than strings. Leon proposes to her but she marries an attorney, Robert Rockmore. Leon marries a black American ballet dancer but abandons her when he returns to the U.S.S.R. The final 120 pages of the novel, set in Russia, felt more real to me than the first section set in America. Life in the Gulag has been well-documented, but Michaels adds an eerie resonance to the starvation and oppression both by guards and fellow inmates that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn records. We need continual reminding of the cost in lives lost to dictators' abuses. "Us Conductors" bears signs of talent yet to be developed. Nonetheless it is a worthwhile read, more for its subject matter than its writing style. Chuck Erion is the former co-owner of Words Worth Books in Waterloo.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This novel won the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Canadian version of the Booker, in 2014 and weaves fact and fiction to tell the life story of Lev Sergeyvich Termen, otherwise known as Leon Termen or Dr Theremin; scientist, inventor, spy and prisoner. The book begins in Russia, where Termen invents the theremin – a kind of electrical instrument, played by moving your arms around in the air and disturbing the current. It is a time of revolution and Termen is a success. He begins to tou This novel won the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Canadian version of the Booker, in 2014 and weaves fact and fiction to tell the life story of Lev Sergeyvich Termen, otherwise known as Leon Termen or Dr Theremin; scientist, inventor, spy and prisoner. The book begins in Russia, where Termen invents the theremin – a kind of electrical instrument, played by moving your arms around in the air and disturbing the current. It is a time of revolution and Termen is a success. He begins to tour – Russian, then Europe and finally America – where “the Russian Edison,” is feted, admired and watched… New York in the 1920’s is, of course, a time of prohibition and speakeasies, fame, glamour and novelty. Termen is a huge success, but his failure is to fail to be aware of how important he is to the two superpowers in world politics. In fact, Termen’s attention is taken by a young girl, Clara Reisenburg, with whom he falls in love. He fails to notice the 1929 crash, fails to take care of business and is not aware of the tensions building around him. This skilful debut novel takes us from science institutes, through fame and fortune and finally, back to Russia, where – as expected – the knock comes in the middle of the night. Through gulags and prisons, Termen pours his heart onto the page and at the centre of everything, is his love for Clara. This is a moving and meandering read which I found very enjoyable. It has a good sense of place and time and I liked Termen as a narrator. Lastly, I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Arbit

    **I received an Advanced Reader's Edition of this book free through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.** :) The narrator of this 1920s tale is Lev Termen, real-life Russian scientist and inventor of the theremin, a novel and eerie musical instrument that relies on the subtle movement of one's hands through an electric current to produce music. Perhaps anyone can intuit or learn how to play a note or a song on the theremin, but only a select few understand the scien **I received an Advanced Reader's Edition of this book free through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.** :) The narrator of this 1920s tale is Lev Termen, real-life Russian scientist and inventor of the theremin, a novel and eerie musical instrument that relies on the subtle movement of one's hands through an electric current to produce music. Perhaps anyone can intuit or learn how to play a note or a song on the theremin, but only a select few understand the science underneath it, and to many its wavering sounds will only ever be impermanent magic. In his idealistic youth, Termen supports the Bolshevik revolution and befriends Lenin. Then, after he has gained some notoriety for his inventions, he is recruited to represent his country elsewhere - first in Western Europe, and then for a lengthier stay in New York City. There, Termen meets some of the great musical and scientific minds of the Gilded Age and, more importantly, the love of his life - Clara. Termen would be happy to live the rest of his days in New York with Clara, improving upon his theremin and experimenting with other inventions, but Clara's other suitor, the 1929 stock market crash and ensuing Great Depression, and the Russian government get in the way. It turns out they have more in mind for Termen than simply promoting his theremin and bolstering ties between the U.S. and U.S.S.R., and start involving him in spying operations. First, Termen finds himself in a compromising situation, the consequences of which he is not prepared to deal with. Then, he is snuck out of the U.S. altogether, boarded up on a cargo ship, and sent back to Russia, which has changed greatly since he left it years ago. Termen's old colleagues tell him not to speak so highly of his time in New York, lest he draw the suspicion of the government, but Termen doesn't heed their warnings... The book is presented as a love letter of sorts, composed mostly on the cargo ship back to Russia, but also added to years later. As such, Termen's voice is often wistful and romantic, a fitting voice for a Russian musician. It is also, somehow, surprisingly detached and removed, especially when he talks of his relationships with non-Clara women, his family, and the misdeeds he is least proud of. Like the theremin itself, author Sean Michaels cleverly depicts Termen as both accessible and mysterious. I loved the way it was written. I loved the way Sean Michaels hid revelations about Termen's life (specifically the fact that (view spoiler)[the whole time he was in New York, he was already married (hide spoiler)] ). While reading, I instantly thought of Frobiser's chapters in Cloud Atlas, which are also written as letters to his lover, steeped with a great appreciation for music, and set between the two World Wars. But while Frobiser is a would-be composer and therefore writes very lyrically and philosophically, Sean Michaels' Termen comes at music from more of a scientific background and isn't sure if he actually intends to send his missive to his beloved Clara. I also thought of The Paris Wife and The Last Nude, both of which give female points of view to the 1920s (one through the eyes of Hemingway's wife, the other through the female lover of a female artist in Paris). My point is this - the market's a little saturated with stories of the 1920s right now (apparently something about a struggling economy and youth disillusionment with society resonates with us today) - but this book is one of the best I've read about this time period. Even if you've read one of the others I listed above (or a different one), this book is worth your time, because it captures something new.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Shirley Schwartz

    This is an absolutely brilliant book! I don't know what to say about this book. It was so complex and so believable with wonderful characters that I can't believe this is a first novel for Sean Michaels. The best compliment that I can give the book is it totally deserved to win the coveted Giller Prize this year. Rarely do I happen to stumble upon a book that reaches me so totally. I was so engrossed in Lev Termen's life that I hated to have to put the book down and come back to reality. The sto This is an absolutely brilliant book! I don't know what to say about this book. It was so complex and so believable with wonderful characters that I can't believe this is a first novel for Sean Michaels. The best compliment that I can give the book is it totally deserved to win the coveted Giller Prize this year. Rarely do I happen to stumble upon a book that reaches me so totally. I was so engrossed in Lev Termen's life that I hated to have to put the book down and come back to reality. The story is set in Russia and in the United States from the 1930's until 1945. Lev is a reluctant Russian spy who has been sent to the United States to share and sell his remarkable inventions, but at the same time, he is supposed to gather information and intelligence about his adopted country. Although he is a true Communist believer, he does not like his spy role and he loves his life in New York. All he wants to do is to be allowed to work on his inventions. Termen invented the theremin which is an electronic musical instrument controlled by arm movements only. The musician never physically touches the instrument. Lev loves his life in the US, but once the Great Depression comes, he finds it difficult to sell his theremin or his other inventions. At the same time, he meets and falls in love with a young violinist by the name of Clara Reisenberg. He squires her around to all the New York dance clubs and falls utterly and hopelessly in love with her. This book is a love story of an unrequited love that follows Lev throughout his life. in the latter half of the book, Termen returns to Russia where he is imprisoned as a political dissident. The hideousness of life in a Siberian gulag is so poignantly depicted by Mr. Michaels. The hopelessness, desperation and despair experienced by the prisoners in the gulag is heartbreaking. But even in these miserable surroundings, the strength of the human spirit comes to the forefront. Great friendships are made and lifelong memories cemented in this, the coldest place on the planet. After about a year in the Siberian gulag, Termen is sent to another prison in Moscow where he and a number of other scientists and inventors are incarcerated. Their duties at this prison are to invent and make many things for the Russian government. As WWII was going on at that time, a lot of the things that this elite bunch of convicts worked on had to do with the war effort. Throughout all this heartache and turmoil, Termen's love for Clara remains strong and it serves as a beacon to guide him through the darkness of his long days and nights in prison and the loneliness of his life as a very reluctant Russian spy. I highly recommend this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    There are three solid storylines at play in this novel. There is the biographical story of the inventor, Termen, and his relationship with one of the most distinct sounding instruments ever to be listened to. There is the political story of two nations, both post-war giants, and Termen's relationship to their overlapping circles of spying and espionage. And then there is the love story between Termen and the beautiful, considerably younger socialite that he meets in New York City while peddling There are three solid storylines at play in this novel. There is the biographical story of the inventor, Termen, and his relationship with one of the most distinct sounding instruments ever to be listened to. There is the political story of two nations, both post-war giants, and Termen's relationship to their overlapping circles of spying and espionage. And then there is the love story between Termen and the beautiful, considerably younger socialite that he meets in New York City while peddling his invention. It's going to be the love story that sucks the reader deep into this book. Everything else, the historical details, the bits of Theremin trivia , the cross-ocean adventures, it's all gravy on top of a beautifully crafted and heart-felt love affair.... extended even further by the author's metaphor that we, in all of our relationships, are simply particles invariably rocketing towards each other through the ether on an inevitable collision course. Sean Michael's novel is hugely successful at everything it sets out to do. Compulsively readable, it's eloquent prose knits together narratives in an effectively uncomplicated way that bounces the reader back and forth through time and place without ever losing its way. Termen is a character for the ages, one as mysterious and enchanting as the instrument he invented. "Us Conductors" with its progressive pace and cathartic final pages will undoubtedly charm most lovers of literary fiction. In fact, this novel was considered the long-shot heading in to the Giller Prize competition, and, surprising everyone, it came out on top as the winner. Deservedly so. It is a nearly perfectly-crafted novel. 4.5/5

  7. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

    3.5 An interesting fictional take on the life of Lev Termen, inventor of the theremin, and scientific genius in general, and his enduring love for theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore. It became a page-turner after awhile, in spite of the length. Like some other readers, I was more intrigued by Part 2, when he was spirited back to Russia to be used by the state. Now I need to explore a true biography.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    Based on the subtitle — “In which I seek the heart of Clara Rockmore, my one true love, finest theremin player the world will ever know” — alone, I expected to read a novel feature a so-called “nice guy” who engages in the rather hipster pastime of listening to the music of an obscure instrument. Imagine my surprise when I reached the fifteenth page and learned the novel is, in fact, based on the life of the inventor of the theremin, Lev Sergeyevich Termen (also known as Léon Theremin). During th Based on the subtitle — “In which I seek the heart of Clara Rockmore, my one true love, finest theremin player the world will ever know” — alone, I expected to read a novel feature a so-called “nice guy” who engages in the rather hipster pastime of listening to the music of an obscure instrument. Imagine my surprise when I reached the fifteenth page and learned the novel is, in fact, based on the life of the inventor of the theremin, Lev Sergeyevich Termen (also known as Léon Theremin). During the course of the novel, Termen believes the Soviet Union pays for him to travel to Europe and the United States in order to show off Soviet ingenuity but quickly learns his trip is a guise for his handler’s monetary schemes and his country’s spying initiatives. Lev is eventually pressed into participating in such initiatives before being recalled to the USSR, and the first part of the novel is him recounting his time living in New York City during the late 1920s and 1930s as he is transported in a locked cabin aboard the Stary Bolshevik. Michaels links to a rendition of “Moon River” played on the theremin on his website, although video of Termen playing the theremin exists, and I would suggest watching this video before reading the novel in order to better understand why the instrument was an economic failure. Doing so might also help to explain the fictional Termen’s frame of mind particularly as it relates to his awe of Clara Rockmore, which I felt like was an underdeveloped aspect of the novel. In this case, love might truly be carried through music rather than words. The language used in this novel in both the dialogue of the characters and the descriptions provided by Termen’s narrative never rang true for the time period in which the novel is supposed to be set. It felt far too familiar to me, far too much like the language I expected the character to use based on my cursory glance at the subtitle. I neither expected nor demand Michaels utilize Russian phrases within his dialogue to convince me of the authenticity of his Russian characters yet I could never image the characters in a 1920s settings as I was supposed to. The second part of the novel focuses on Termen’s time in a “scientific prison” following his return to Russia as written by the fictional Termen in a 1947 journal written for Clara Rockmore. Termen struggles to adapt to life in Stalinist Russia; he attempts to gain favor with the upper echelon of the new government by reminding them of his past as a Soviet spy and Lenin’s personal enjoyment of the theremin. This particular aspect caught my attention but an opportunity for greater enjoyment of this novel was lost as Michaels quickly ferries the reader through Termen’s life in a Stalinist prison to the epilogue. Michaels states in his author’s note at the end of the novel that while he researched known facts about Termen’s life, “it is full of distortions, elisions, omission, and lies”. Lumped amongst these “distortions, elisions, omission, and lies” are elements of a good story, but I am afraid most of them are overshadowed by dialogue incompatible with the time period that heavily distracted from my enjoyment of the story Michaels was trying to tell.

  9. 5 out of 5

    LindaJ^

    I bought this book in 2014 after it won Canada's Giller prize, without knowing what it was about. Then the book languished on my TBR shelf until now. I had no idea what it was about when I bought it. I had never heard of a "theremin" or of Lev Termin. As I read I resolved when finished to see if either the device or the man ever existed, but I found my answer in the Author's Note at the end of the book! And thanks to the links in Krista's review, I was able to hear Termin and his love Clara play I bought this book in 2014 after it won Canada's Giller prize, without knowing what it was about. Then the book languished on my TBR shelf until now. I had no idea what it was about when I bought it. I had never heard of a "theremin" or of Lev Termin. As I read I resolved when finished to see if either the device or the man ever existed, but I found my answer in the Author's Note at the end of the book! And thanks to the links in Krista's review, I was able to hear Termin and his love Clara playing the instrument. I really enjoyed this book and am glad to know the theremin is real! Yes, Lev Termin was a real person. He was Russian. He was an inventor. His most famous invention is the theremin. He was a Russian spy during his time in the US in the late 1920's to early 1930's. He was deemed a traitor and sent to a gulag. He returned to the US when in his 90's. He died in 1991 at age 97. This are facts. Around these facts, Sean Michaels has added a lot of details about Termin and his thoughts that might or might not have any truth. Lev Termin tells his own story in the first person. The book starts as he is being returned to Russia. On the journey, he tells about his early life, how he got to the US, and what he did while there. After his return, he tells what happens to him by writing a letter (letters?) to Clara, the young woman he fell in love with while in the US. I was completely sucked into Lev's life. What's not to like? There is music, love, politics, and pain.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Roger Brunyate

    The Return Voyage In 1927, the Russian physicist Lev Sergeyevich Termen (known in the West as Léon Theremin) travels to America on board the SS Majestic, in order to demonstrate the electronic musical instrument that bears his name. Already a work-famous figure, he travels first class, with license to wander all over the ship. Eleven years later, when this book begins, he is returning to Russia aboard the Stary Bolshevik, locked in his cabin, a prisoner of the state. Sean Michaels' Giller prizewi The Return Voyage In 1927, the Russian physicist Lev Sergeyevich Termen (known in the West as Léon Theremin) travels to America on board the SS Majestic, in order to demonstrate the electronic musical instrument that bears his name. Already a work-famous figure, he travels first class, with license to wander all over the ship. Eleven years later, when this book begins, he is returning to Russia aboard the Stary Bolshevik, locked in his cabin, a prisoner of the state. Sean Michaels' Giller prizewinning novel explores what happened in the interim to cause this change of fortunes—and then, more briefly, the even more dramatic changes he survived when he got back to Russia. In many ways, this is a pretty straightforward biography, only told in the first person in a slightly playful tone, as you can gather from the full title: "Us Conductors, in which I seek the heart of Clara Rockmore, my one true love, finest theremin player the world will ever know." Clara Rockmore, née Reisenberg, was a violin prodigy whose musical skills far o'erleaped the inventor's teaching when she started to learn the theremin, making him fall head over heels in love. They go out dancing together at night in all the clubs of Manhattan and Harlem, and are clearly made for one another, except that Léon is already married and Clara is being courted by Robert Rockmore, a rising attorney. All the same, Theremin's early years in America pass in a whirlwind of fame, hobnobbing with the classical and jazz musicians of the day, courted by companies like RCA and GE, and turning out inventions with almost the productivity of a second Edison, including musical instruments of all kinds, a burglar alarm system, an altimeter, a form of television, and various devices for eavesdropping on other people. For if Clara's company and social success were two of the reasons for Theremin staying eleven years in America, his value to the Russian government was a third. Through him, they could gain access to major American corporations; before long his minders tell him that he will one day be expected to serve as a spy. Back home, his inventions might serve the state in more direct ways—and the Russians have more coercive ways of getting him to perform. Michaels notes at the beginning: "This book is mostly inventions." It is mostly about scientific devices, indeed, but I was not sure how much of its story was invented too. Halfway through the book, unfortunately, I made the mistake of looking Theremin up to find out. I quickly saw that almost all of it is true in outline, although Michaels presumably invented the details. But once I knew that, I found I had little desire to keep reading about Theremin in a novel. The voice Michaels gives him, though entertaining, is not enough to sustain the interest for 450 pages. And neither his roller-coaster ride in love nor the all-too-familiar story of yet another intellectual's treatment under Stalin were of sufficient interest to keep my reading with the commitment I had at the beginning.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Beverly Akerman

    An extremely accomplished (first!!) novel that imagines, in exquisite detail, the lives of historical figures. Lev Termen was clearly a genius to whom we owe many diverse electronic inventions. I enjoyed this book...but: --The choppy short sentences, especially prominent in the first half of the book, got on my nerves. Also, the detail was a bit too exquisite (50-100 pages-worth) --Turns out I find the sound of the theremin quite repellant (though that's hardly Mr. Michael's fault) --The story was An extremely accomplished (first!!) novel that imagines, in exquisite detail, the lives of historical figures. Lev Termen was clearly a genius to whom we owe many diverse electronic inventions. I enjoyed this book...but: --The choppy short sentences, especially prominent in the first half of the book, got on my nerves. Also, the detail was a bit too exquisite (50-100 pages-worth) --Turns out I find the sound of the theremin quite repellant (though that's hardly Mr. Michael's fault) --The story was only redeemed by Termen's suffering in the latter half of the book (aka thank goodness for the gulag). Unfortunately all too real.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Carole

    This was a very complex and cleverly tied together fictionalized account of the life and career of Lev Thermen, the inventor and celebrated player of a fascinating musical instrument, the theremin. His story is presented through a series of flashbacks and forwards and is intricately set in both New York's Jazz Age and the Soviet Union's reign of terror. How Sean Michaels combines physics, politics, romance and music is a terrific creative accomplishment. I found Part One a little bit difficult to This was a very complex and cleverly tied together fictionalized account of the life and career of Lev Thermen, the inventor and celebrated player of a fascinating musical instrument, the theremin. His story is presented through a series of flashbacks and forwards and is intricately set in both New York's Jazz Age and the Soviet Union's reign of terror. How Sean Michaels combines physics, politics, romance and music is a terrific creative accomplishment. I found Part One a little bit difficult to get into but Part Two was very engrossing.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tom Shannon

    The story was able to weave a romance, a political thriller, and musical theory into a captivating story. I found the second half of the book much better than the first as it took a more kafkaesque turn in the later chapters. He was able to weave history with a bunch of stuff he just made up to make a compelling plot that I enjoyed. A solid book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jo-anne

    Really need 1/2 stars on Goodreads as this would be 3.5 stars. Enjoyed the historical aspect but felt no empathy for the narrator.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Krista

    I had put off reading Sean Michaels' Us Conductors because when I heard it was about Lev Sergeyevich Termen and his invention of the theremin, the eerie electronic instrument, I couldn't generate any enthusiasm for the topic (and not least of all because I found the proto-synth sounds the theremin produced -- in my memory anyway -- annoying and unmusical). I thought the book would be dull and I was completely wrong. In Michaels' imagination, Termen was a genius with electricity -- both pioneer a I had put off reading Sean Michaels' Us Conductors because when I heard it was about Lev Sergeyevich Termen and his invention of the theremin, the eerie electronic instrument, I couldn't generate any enthusiasm for the topic (and not least of all because I found the proto-synth sounds the theremin produced -- in my memory anyway -- annoying and unmusical). I thought the book would be dull and I was completely wrong. In Michaels' imagination, Termen was a genius with electricity -- both pioneer and high priest -- whose relationship with his inventions bordered on the sublime. Here is the way you play a theremin: You turn it on. Then you wait. You wait for several reasons. You wait to give the tubes a chance to warm, like creatures taking their first breaths. You wait in order to heighten the audience's suspense. And, finally, you wait to magnify your own anticipation. It is a thrill and a terror. You stand before a cabinet and two antennas and immediately the space itself is activated, the room is charged, the atmosphere is alive. What was potential is potent. You imagine sparks, embers, tiny lightning flecks balanced in the vacant air. You raise your hands… (A)lways you are standing with your hands in the air, like a conductor. That is the secret of the theremin after all: your body is a conductor. As written here, Termin's life was anything but dull: after impressing Lenin himself with his manipulation of electronic fields, the young scientist and his theremin were sent on a world concert tour (causing women to faint, men to gasp, and composers to weep as they imagined the death of the orchestra; the splintering of cellos), and when he landed in America, Termin was pressed into service as a Soviet spy. (In a way, this was the reverse journey of Harry Houdini as imagined by Steven Galloway in The Confabulist, and I enjoyed the image of Houdini being sent to Europe as a spy disguised as a magician as Termin was being sent to America as a spy disguised as a musician; they must have crossed paths at some point.) He spent the late 1920s and 30s in NYC, rubbing elbows with celebrities, giving theremin lessons, mastering kung fu, using corporate interest in his inventions as wedges for industrial espionage, and falling in (unrequited) love with Clara (Reisenberg) Rockmore: "finest theremin player the world will ever know". Termin returned to the USSR in 1938 at the urging of his spymasters, was immediately declared an enemy of the state, and was sent to a gulag; first to work in the gold mines of Kolyma, and then to a sharashka (a special prison camp for top scientists). Much of this can be confirmed with a bit of googling, but as interesting as the material is, Michaels writes often in an urgent and propulsive style that transcends the bare biography. On Termin's early dalliance with bolshevism: We bolted. Men and women were breaking in all directions, some toward but most of them away from the Imperial soldiers. Bodies pushing into us like shoving hands. Snow was still falling. Cold light. More pops, thin trails of smoke, dark coats, and now glimpses of green uniforms, gold buttons, then rising up, the terrifying silhouettes of horses, cavalry, and we ran and ran and ran, over torn earth, over ice, filled with raw, fierce terror. What I didn't know going in is that Us Conductors is a love story: this book is written from the point of view of Termin as he recalls his life -- and in particular, his NYC days with Clara -- composing both a memoir and unmailable letters addressed to his long lost love, written in the various cells he occupies after leaving the States (from a locked cabin in the bowels of a ship to the bare office overlooking the Kremlin) . Termin's enthusiasm on meeting Clara (and especially their dancing together in Harlem jazz clubs), his heartbreak, and his longing are all touched on, without ever being the main focus of the narrative, so there's a bit of a disconnect between what the character of Termin most often writes about (the theremin and his other inventions) and what he periodically insists on as being the most important thing (Clara). Even so, I was touched by this scene between Termin and the woman he eventually does marry (perhaps just to solve his visa issues?): We went home and I removed her clothes and she traced me in the darkness; I kissed her ribs, pressed my thumb into the crease beneath her lips, against the rise of her cheekbone. We were travellers, unlit. I wanted everything. We lay, after, in a cold Y, and we felt like branches. I stared at gardenias, in a vase. I circled her wrist with my hand. Every time I moved my lips I was telling a lie. The writing in Us Conductors is consistently interesting, the life story of Lev Termin is undeniably fascinating, and the reading experience is certainly not dull. And yet, this wasn't a perfect book: the parts didn't add up to more than their sum and I found the ending to be a bit weak. And yet, I would definitely recommend this book and some related links: Sean Michaels is the founder of, and a regular contributor to, the mp3blog Said the Gramophone. I enjoyed reading more of his quirky writing style there. I was happy to be proved wrong about the theremin being annoying/unmusical when I saw a video of Clara Rockmore performing The Swan (a song often mentioned in Us Conductors) here. And not to be outdone, Lev Termin (or the Americanised "Leon Theremin") can be seen demonstrating his instrument here.

  16. 4 out of 5

    MargaretDH

    4.5 stars, and I’ve rounded it up to five. A few years ago, I went to a musical instrument museum, and took a tour that included everything from beautifully constructed, centuries old harpsichords to an enormous organ constructed for a silent movie theatre, that could produce all kinds of amazing sound effects. It was also my first introduction to the Theremin, where a tour guide played the Canadian national anthem for us. It’s truly eerie watching someone play a Theremin, seeing someone pull note 4.5 stars, and I’ve rounded it up to five. A few years ago, I went to a musical instrument museum, and took a tour that included everything from beautifully constructed, centuries old harpsichords to an enormous organ constructed for a silent movie theatre, that could produce all kinds of amazing sound effects. It was also my first introduction to the Theremin, where a tour guide played the Canadian national anthem for us. It’s truly eerie watching someone play a Theremin, seeing someone pull notes from thin air. From then on, it popped up here and there – did you know that the original Star Trek theme features a Theremin? – but stayed in the back of my mind until the Giller 2014 shortlist was announced. I found this fictionalized account of the inventor of the Theremin fascinating. Sean Michaels casts Termin as a kind of musician, creating strange and wonderful devices that often stem from the way human bodies conduct and manipulate radio waves and electric currents. The narration fluctuates between first and second person narration, as Termin tells his story to ‘the finest Theremin player in the world.’ I found it an effective storytelling device, especially as it lets Michaels create a wonderful character voice – sometimes exuberant, sometimes introspective, and always honest. The descriptive passages are wonderful. Termin seems to find beauty wherever he looks, whether that’s the jazz clubs of 1920s and 30s New York, or even the bay leading to a Siberian gulag. Termin’s love and enthusiasm for his inventions is also contagious. I loved that Michaels created a narrator whose facility with language is not perfect, but always evocative. Termin spends time in a prison camp, and later a special prison for scientists. In both prisons, Termin is forced to produce, first with physical and then with mental labour. I wished that Michaels had further explored ideas around this dichotomy, and what it meant to be scientifically creative and collaborative in such a place. I don’t necessarily think that the novel is lacking, but I just would have liked it if it had gone a bit farther. I also wanted to know Clara, the finest Theremin player, a bit better. She seemed slightly opaque and elusive, but given Termin’s point of view, that is of course understandable. In any case, I thought this was wonderful, and was very pleased to see it on the Giller shortlist. I would probably not have picked this up otherwise, and I’m thrilled that I did. November 10: Edited to Add I'm so pleased this won the Giller!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Steven Langdon

    This interesting novel by Sean Michaels is one of six nominees for Canada's 2014 Giller Prize. There is a combination of emotional intensity, deep character probing and skilled writing in all these novels. And the social and political relevance of the books is powerful in every case, with insights into mental illness, the abuse of human rights, the devastations of war and terrorism, and the realities of poverty. "Us Conductors" finds its music amid the grim oppression of Stalin's labour camps as This interesting novel by Sean Michaels is one of six nominees for Canada's 2014 Giller Prize. There is a combination of emotional intensity, deep character probing and skilled writing in all these novels. And the social and political relevance of the books is powerful in every case, with insights into mental illness, the abuse of human rights, the devastations of war and terrorism, and the realities of poverty. "Us Conductors" finds its music amid the grim oppression of Stalin's labour camps as well as New York speakeasies. Lev Termen is an actual historical figure that Michaels treats in fictional form from his early years as a boy in Petrograd to his experiences with Lenin in Moscow to his years in the US promoting the electronic music machine he invented (the theremin) to his imprisonment on his return to Russia. This is a long and intricate story that includes episodes of espionage in the US and later Cold War inventions used by the USSR against America; it also includes long years of romantic ties between Termen and Clara Rockmore, the most skilled performer in the US in playing the theremin. What makes the novel work is the skilled writing of Michaels, his ability to recreate atmosphere and detail from many years ago, and the unusual focus on music that the book includes. Even in the harsh abusiveness of the Siberian labour camps, Michaels describes orchestras of prisoners that are brought together and the varieties of music that they performed. Lev Termen himself is a remarkable figure; his lifespan covers virtually the entire history of the USSR, with a perspective of rare insight into personalities and Soviet science. Add to this the striking ties with Clara and you have the basis for a fine novel. That is what Michaels has provided.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nikki Stafford

    I've been fascinated by the theremin for many years: it's that ethereal, otherworldly instrument that became a mainstay of 1960s sci-fi shows, and was the subject of a great documentary in the early 90s, a sound very much like the one used in Good Vibrations and the Doctor Who theme song, even though both used fake versions of what the theremin instrument actually was. I remember going to see that movie and instantly being drawn to the story. Now Sean Michaels takes it and draws so much more fro I've been fascinated by the theremin for many years: it's that ethereal, otherworldly instrument that became a mainstay of 1960s sci-fi shows, and was the subject of a great documentary in the early 90s, a sound very much like the one used in Good Vibrations and the Doctor Who theme song, even though both used fake versions of what the theremin instrument actually was. I remember going to see that movie and instantly being drawn to the story. Now Sean Michaels takes it and draws so much more from the story of Lev Termen, the Russian man who created music by waving one's hands above a bunch of vacuum tubes, and Clara, the woman he falls in love with. I found the book a little tough to get into, especially since, as he admits more than once between the book's covers, it's largely made up, so I wasn't sure exactly what was real and what wasn't. After a while, it didn't matter. There are a few moments where the story slows a little too much, but it's more than made up for in some truly exquisite passages, such as his description of Charlie Chaplin curling up into a frightened ball on his couch when someone came to his house to demonstrate the sound of the instrument up close. And yet, very little of this book is actually about the theremin, and more is about Lev's love of this much younger woman, his struggles against being a Soviet but longing to be an American, and this book is one long love letter to Clara, who created more beautiful sounds from this instrument — and its creator — than anyone else ever did.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Sammis

    I just can't go on with this dull book any more. It's monotone. http://pussreboots.com/blog/2017/comm... I just can't go on with this dull book any more. It's monotone. http://pussreboots.com/blog/2017/comm...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Travers

    I *loved* this book. No wonder it won the Giller. I read this book in every spare moment I had. I'm going to immediately look up what else Michaels has written because this was frankly fantastic. The style of his writing is minimalistic. What I mean is that he doesn't describe absolutely everything in a scene... just the really important bits, and lets your mind fill in the rest as you read. It reminded me of early Murakami in that regard... he describes things juuuust a bit, but in such unusual an I *loved* this book. No wonder it won the Giller. I read this book in every spare moment I had. I'm going to immediately look up what else Michaels has written because this was frankly fantastic. The style of his writing is minimalistic. What I mean is that he doesn't describe absolutely everything in a scene... just the really important bits, and lets your mind fill in the rest as you read. It reminded me of early Murakami in that regard... he describes things juuuust a bit, but in such unusual and evocative ways that even after a one short sentence (6-7 words) description, you immediately have an image of exactly is going on, or what the location of a scene looks like. He also describes feelings and conversations in amazing ways. Instead of spending a ton of time describing how 2 characters having a conversation are feeling, or how they are talking, he states it simply and concisely, yet perfectly. An example from late in the book that immediately comes to mind is (and I'm paraphrasing here) "They spoke slowly, like re-arranging items on a table." PERFECT. It's a great story too, based, but not completely, on the real life of the inventor of the Theremin. I went into the book thinking "how interesting could this be?" and was blown away.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Iliana

    -This was a Good Reads first reads win!- Spoilers? To cut to the chase I really loved this book. I loved pausing after reading something so beautifully written by Sean Michaels to soak it in. I loved imagining George Gershwin and Glen Miller jamming at Dr Theremin's house. I especially loved the tragic second half of the book. But the thing I did not like, or rather, found the least compelling was Termen's love for Clara. It's strange though, I feel like it worked for the story, and Termen needed -This was a Good Reads first reads win!- Spoilers? To cut to the chase I really loved this book. I loved pausing after reading something so beautifully written by Sean Michaels to soak it in. I loved imagining George Gershwin and Glen Miller jamming at Dr Theremin's house. I especially loved the tragic second half of the book. But the thing I did not like, or rather, found the least compelling was Termen's love for Clara. It's strange though, I feel like it worked for the story, and Termen needed something to hold onto when he gets back to Russia, but I couldn't help but find him a bit insufferable for not moving on when she turned him down in the first place.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    This author's ability to write a book that ranges in theme from music (including Jazz Age New York City) to the Soviet gulag is amazing. The theme of music and, in this novel, its relationship to science, run throughout settings from Leningrad to New York to Kolyma Labor Camp and to Moscow and activities from scientific experimentation to dancing in Harlem to working in the gulag to spying (both in the US and in Russia). What a strange and wonderful combination! The writing is beautiful. I will This author's ability to write a book that ranges in theme from music (including Jazz Age New York City) to the Soviet gulag is amazing. The theme of music and, in this novel, its relationship to science, run throughout settings from Leningrad to New York to Kolyma Labor Camp and to Moscow and activities from scientific experimentation to dancing in Harlem to working in the gulag to spying (both in the US and in Russia). What a strange and wonderful combination! The writing is beautiful. I will definitely look forward to more from this author.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    Unforgettable!!! This novel has so much to offer -- otherworldly music, inventions, science, history, glamour, espionage, gulags, prison deprivations and dancing so hard your shoes come undone. But the electricity that powers the entire tale is the love Leon has for Clara. Brilliantly written and imagined, Us Conductors transported me to times and places I have never been. A worthy Giller Prize winner!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Farrell

    I was recommended this book by a friend, and whileI loved the story and the "characters", I felt that it just ended up being a sad story. I was hoping for something a little more upbeat, and while I understand that life isn't like that, it's hard to leave this book as a letdown. Michaels does write wonderfully, however, and manages to make stark and brutal scenes almost hauntingly beautiful.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Debra Komar

    Continuing on my streak of not necessarily agreeing with the Giller jury. This is a competent first book and the subject matter is interesting but I just never got that engrossed by it. It began to feel like a chore to read, rather than something compelling. The writer has skill but there is a distance in it that I could never overcome.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Julie Campbell

    Oh wow, did I love this book. The story is great, and I was very interested in the characters and to find out how things would unfold but mostly I just loved how it was written. Like, I LOVED how it was written. The style and structure of his sentences was just beautiful and so perfectly captured the love story. Definitely one that I'll need to pick up in paperback for a re-read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joan B

    I really loved this book... I wasn't sure at first, but heard an interview on CBC, and thought this sounds more than interesting! Giller Panel made an excellent choice.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kara Babcock

    Us Conductors notably plays fast and loose with its label as historical fiction. Michaels freely admits in his Author’s Note that the Termen he depicts is highly fictionalized—no kung fu or murder is on record, as far as we know—and points the reader in the direction of a more vanilla accounting of Termen’s real life. It seems, sometimes, like authors of historical fiction can’t win. No matter how close one adheres to historical fact, one invariably becomes the target of a pedant who wants to no Us Conductors notably plays fast and loose with its label as historical fiction. Michaels freely admits in his Author’s Note that the Termen he depicts is highly fictionalized—no kung fu or murder is on record, as far as we know—and points the reader in the direction of a more vanilla accounting of Termen’s real life. It seems, sometimes, like authors of historical fiction can’t win. No matter how close one adheres to historical fact, one invariably becomes the target of a pedant who wants to note how inaccurate one’s story is. Conversely, admitting to inaccuracies only seems to drive the sticklers ever more wild. I personally don’t mind either way, as long as you’re honest—it’s when you pull a Dan Brown and claim everything in your book is 100% researched and factual that I’m liable to get bloodthirsty. The Termen of Us Conductors is a lonely, bold sort of man. Thanks to the first-person narration, we get precious few observations about Termen that don’t come from Termen himself. It’s easy at times to forget that this story is entirely a letter, even when Termen slips into using the second person to address Clara. Yet if you step back from the story and look only at its brushstrokes, its epistolary undertones are evident in the way Termen elides certain events and delves deeply into others. This creates a kind of pseudo-meditative tone to the entire piece that makes it classic Giller Prize nominee material. Though capitulating to such conventions of literary fiction, the book is not actually as dull as I feared. I hadn’t heard of it prior to its Giller win, and even then I wasn’t all that interested in reading it (quite frankly, Heather O’Neill’s latest excited me more, because I loved Lullabies for Little Criminals ). But I admit I was intrigued by a story about the inventor of the theremin, an instrument that has an almost “cult” status when it comes to music. Michaels tries to describe how amazing this invention must have seemed, both to its inventor and his contemporary audience: a musical instrument that makes sound from electricity, modulated by the body’s own electric field. It is magic through science. The title itself is a play on words, “conductors” having so many connotations in this story. Beyond Termen’s invention, though, is the matter of his loyalty to Mother Russia and his presence in the US as a spy. Michaels captures the fragmented political state of Russia both before and after World War II: Termen’s handlers change inexplicably, as if he is just a pawn in a larger power struggle within the spy apparatus back home. After he returns to Russia, the NKVD arrests him and tortures him until he “confesses” to being an American spy. I appreciate that Michaels restricts himself to using such situations for his social commentary. He could have included numerous fictional conversations between Termen and others if he wanted to conduct an ideological debate within the pages of this book, but that’s not what happens. Us Conductors isn’t about the failure of communism, or its rise or its fall. It presents the distinctiveness of communism in contrast to America’s rampant and illusory capitalist dream through the eyes of a Termen simultaneously bitter about and resigned to returning to Russia. His problem, of course, is this: he claims to love Russia, and he claims to love Clara. How, then, can he balance their reciprocal claims to his heart, body, time? Clara seems to have taken herself out of the equation, for she marries another. Yet Termen’s ”love” for her borders on a kind of transference of his fascination with the theremin. I think, deep down, he secretly views the theremin as an apotheosis of musical instruments. (I get this from the excitement he feels when talking about the theremin’s prospects for bringing equality in music to the worker. Termen might have enjoyed the lifestyle of America, but he seems pretty straightforward in his support of communist ethics.) So Termen is disappointed by the lacklustre uptake in the theremin. Everyone’s initial reaction is gratifying, and certainly at one point there are numerous companies courting him for contracts. Yet, somehow, it all fizzles out. And even though there are a few thereminists like Clara still making it, they and the theremin eclipse the inventor (as most creations inevitably do). Maybe I’m wrong and my scepticism over his love for Clara is unfounded. It just seems dubious, considering he marries two other women and still carries the torch for her as “the one who got away.” At the very least, it speaks to the gradations and diversity of love as a concept that most romantic comedies and a lot of literature fail to honour: there is more than the most straightforward type of romantic love or the safest type of platonic love out there, and the shades between them are usually more interesting anyway. If you step back and regard Us Conductors in this light, as the story of a particularly unique Russian emigre who just happens to have sidelines of spying and later gets imprisoned back home under Stalin’s regime … then that’s where this book succeeds. As a story of Termen, it cannot ever be great—it’s too fictionalized, after all. As a love story, it has none of the arc or resolution that one would want. As a tragedy, it is hopelessly uplifting. Only as a snapshot of the curious confluences of history and society that made Termen’s type of immigration possible does Us Conductors approach the type of greatness deserving of a literary prize. Do I think it should have won? I don’t know. Nor do I particularly care. What matters is that it’s a good, pretty solid work of character-driven fiction. It’s the kind of book you want to pass with a dreary Sunday afternoon with while you put on a classical album (maybe Rachmaninoff?) and sip a cup of tea. Or that just might be me. That’s probably just me.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    This was a real struggle to get through. Billed as a true life story of Lev Termen, Russian scientists, inventor (of the Theremin), and a spy. I didn't know the spy element and the narrative idea of recounting the old adventures sounded really interesting, mixing music with spying, electricity is in the air... and it's basically a long, drawn-out, overly-lyrical and quite creepy recounting of unrequited love. It doesn't even seem like a good love story, he's just infatuated with a very young gir This was a real struggle to get through. Billed as a true life story of Lev Termen, Russian scientists, inventor (of the Theremin), and a spy. I didn't know the spy element and the narrative idea of recounting the old adventures sounded really interesting, mixing music with spying, electricity is in the air... and it's basically a long, drawn-out, overly-lyrical and quite creepy recounting of unrequited love. It doesn't even seem like a good love story, he's just infatuated with a very young girl he met and hung out with, then stays in love with her through a marriage ending, a new marriage, years in a gulag, and more! It was both boring and overly repetitive, and it distracted from the other elements of the history/story. I know it's meant to be a lyrical and deep narrative (it is a Giller Prize winner, after all), but not one that I liked overly much. I did like the story of Termen and should read more about the real man, because the spy work and gulag story was pretty amazing. I wouldn't recommend this book unless you like long and convoluted unrequited love narratives.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I recently finished reading Us Conductors for the second time. The first time I read it was shortly after it was published in 2014. On first read, I was struck by the beauty of the language - I found that I read it slowly so as to fully appreciate the way it was written and not finish it too quickly. The second time I read it, I was more taken in by the way the author weaves together the various storylines and contrasts different themes - e.g., the excitement and joy of Lev's time in New York vs I recently finished reading Us Conductors for the second time. The first time I read it was shortly after it was published in 2014. On first read, I was struck by the beauty of the language - I found that I read it slowly so as to fully appreciate the way it was written and not finish it too quickly. The second time I read it, I was more taken in by the way the author weaves together the various storylines and contrasts different themes - e.g., the excitement and joy of Lev's time in New York vs. the despair and darkness of his time in prison. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Lev's invention of the theremin (and his various other inventions described in the book), and I was struck by the fact that even though Lev was never really free, he was always doing what he loved. This is a beautifully written novel, and I would definitely read it again.

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