Dissonance begins with piano practice. Fifteen-year-old Erwin Hergert is forced to tackle scales and studies for six hours a day by his mother, Madge, who is determined to produce Australia's first great pianist. To help Erwin focus, Madge has exiled her husband, Johann, to the back shed. Jo is diagnosed with cancer and Madge allows him back inside, but only for long enough to die.
Madge takes Erwin to Hamburg to continue his studies. Erwin prospers in Germany with his new teacher until he meets a neighbour, sixteen-year-old Luise, and finds there's more to life than music.
Meanwhile, Germany is moving towards war. Late 1930s Hamburg forms the backdrop to an increasingly difficult love-triangle, as Erwin is torn between the piano, Luise, and the demands of his love and devotion to his mother. Soon the bombs, real and imagined, start falling. Marriage and parenthood give way to death, and tragedy. Before long Erwin and Madge are drawn into the horrors of a war that leaves little time for music.
Dissonance is a re-imagining of the 'Frankfurt years' of Rose and Percy Grainger. This is a novel about love in one of its most extreme and destructive forms, and how people attempt to survive the threat of possession.
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