Emilia Salvini dreams of marrying a man who loves music as she does. But in 18th-century Milan, being the “second sister” means she’ll likely be sent to a convent instead. Emilia’s only hope is to prove her musical talents crucial to her father’s quest for nobility. First, though, she must win over her music tutor, who disdains her simply for being a girl. Too late, Emilia realizes that her success could threaten not only her dreams for her future but her sister’s very life. Playing by Heart is inspired by two amazing sisters who were far ahead of their time—one a mathematician and the other a composer. At its core, the novel is the story of two teens struggling to follow their true calling, even when it conflicts with their father’s goals.
Playing by HeartFeatured
Emilia is a young woman in Milan who has become somewhat of a musical prodigy. She's a composer as well as being adept at the harpsichord. She's also the second oldest daughter in a family with many kids. Her father has dedicated his life to gaining a noble title and wants to marry two of his daughters to noblemen. The problem? Emilia's older sister desires to become and nun and Emilia herself has already found the man she wants to marry and he has nothing to his name. This is the story of two sister navigating a world in which women weren't supposed to have minds of their own.
What I liked:
I learned so much in this story about music and like in 18th century Milan. It was a fascinating read. The writing flows easily and Emilia is such a strong, wonderful character. She's willing to sacrifice her own happiness for that of her sister. She's endearing and brave. It was a pleasure to read about her.
What was just okay:
The book is young. Much younger than I'd imagined when seeing the cover. Emilia is 13 when the story begins, putting it almost in to MG territory, yet she speaks as if she's much older. It was sort of an odd disconnect.
This story is a pleasure to read. There's no lack of characters to root for or interesting scenes to lose yourself in.
This is the first book I’ve read by this author and loved her writing style. In fact, the moment I finished the book, I read her first novel Rosa Sola, which I also thoroughly enjoyed. Her beautiful descriptions bring her books to life. I found the passages describing Emilia’s music particularly lovely. The author does a wonderful job of showing society and culture of 18th century Italy. This time period makes for a very interesting book, especially for young women, to see the choices and educational opportunities available to girls their age at that time in history.
This book highlights something that’s near and dear to my heart – that we all have gifts from God and we should find ways to use these gifts to help others. I loved that these young women knew their talents were from God and they longed to use them in a positive way. I also really liked the underlying passages of jealousy. This is something we all can relate to, feeling envious of another’s successes. How Emilia deals with this and works through it is a wonderful example for readers to emulate.
This historic fiction, inspired by two real sisters who lived in 18th Century Italy, would make a fantastic bookclub or classroom choice, full of many great topics for discussion.