BOOK REVIEW: The Fifth String

Who knew that The March King, John Philip Sousa, wrote books besides music?

This was news to me, until recently when I was doing some research, I came across a short list of books he wrote. The first one I was able to get was “The Fifth String.”

This is a retelling of the make-a-deal-with-the-devil. Indeed, there are many different versions of this storyline, including “The Devil and Daniel Webster, “ “Faust,” “Damn Yankees,” “The Devil and Tom Walker,” et al. Sousa’s version is a refreshing change of pace.

Violinist Angelo Diotti is smitten with the lovely Mildred Wallace and makes a deal with the demon Mephistopheles. Everything hinges on the unusual fifth string on a violin Diotti was given – unusual in that violins don’t have a fifth string and unusual for what it is composed of. Not only is this a Faust-esque tale, it is also a twist on the fall of Eve or the curiosity of Pandora – things that lead to man’s downfall or demise.

Sousa is, not surprisingly, a very good writer. His sentences are complex and descriptions are real and vivid. Naturally, because Sousa was primarily a musical composer, “The Fifth String” is rife with beautiful descriptive musical terminology and settings.  One of my favorite passages is:

“The audience, ever ready to act when those on the stage cease that occupation, gave a splendid imitation of the historic last scene at the Tower of Babel.”

I can hear the clamor, the multitude of voices in the audience. Sousa’s style, though definitely from a time when speaking and writing may come across as stilted in our present world, is masterful.

This is a book that I would recommend. It can be read in an evening (160 pages), and it keeps the reader’s interest.

“The Fifth String”
Author: John Philip Sousa
Publication date: 1901
Pages: 160

November 12, 2016.
©Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.


About Susan Marie Molloy

I am an observer, a writer, and a poet. My latest poetry books, "Indigo Fantasy," "Life in the Oasis," "Gallery Night," "God of the Sea," and "Grapes Suzette" and my short stories, "The Green Gloves" and "The Crowd of Turin" are now available on Amazon. Check them out. Buy them. Read them. Send me your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you. View all posts by Susan Marie Molloy

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