BY MITCHELL JAMES KAPLAN
Publication Date: March 2, 2021
Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook; 352 pages
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.
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“Mitchell James Kaplan pens a lilting, jazzy ballad as catchy as a Gershwin tune, bringing to vibrant life the complicated relationship between classically trained composer Kay Swift and free-wheeling star George Gershwin. Their musical bond is as powerful as their passion, and jazz-soaked gin-drenched Broadway is their playground through the tumultuous years of the Great War and Prohibition. Rhapsody will have you humming, toe-tapping, and singing along with every turn of the page.” –Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of THE ALICE NETWORK and THE HUNTRESS
“We all know Gershwin, but how many know he was ‘the man behind the woman,” the conflicted, extraordinary Katherine ‘Kay’ Swift? Mitchell James Kaplan illuminates her in Rhapsody, bringing his impressive knowledge of history, composition, and the heart’s whims to bear on this shining rendition of Swift and Gershwin’s star-crossed love.” –Therese Anne Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of Z and A GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD
“In Rhapsody, Mitchell James Kaplan brings to lyrical life the romance between Kay Swift and George Gershwin. A gifted musician in her own right, Kay was no mere accompanist to Gershwin’s genius; she was a true partner, unfortunately little remembered today. Kaplan’s vivid prose and empathetic characterization shines a spotlight on this remarkable woman who contributed so much to American music.” –Melanie Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue and Mistress of the Ritz
“Mitchell James Kaplan’s Rhapsody shines a blazing light on the celebrated George Gershwin, uncovering the man behind the legend through the story of the woman he loved, Kay Swift, a brilliant musician caught in the swiftly moving mores of New York’s Jazz Age. Rich with history and packed with intricate detail, Rhapsody soars.” –Randy Susan Meyers, bestselling author of THE WIDOW OF WALL STREET and WAISTED
“Mitchell James Kaplan has captured a whole world in his luminous journey through the jazz age in fast-paced New York City with this love story of composer Kay Swift and the brilliant but elusive George Gershwin. Kay first heard him playing his Rhapsody in Blue, but she was married to a wealthy man and Gershwin could be faithful only to his own genius. Through Broadway theaters and concerts, he was rising so fast that neither the Great Depression, nor the darkening rise of Hitler across the sea, nor the impossible difficulties of writing the first black folk-opera Porgy and Bess could stop him. Through their love affair, Gershwin and Kay gave fire to each other’s music until nothing could derail his meteoric success but time.” –Stephanie Cowell, American Book Award-winning author of CLAUDE AND CAMILLE and THE PHYSICIAN OF LONDON
In 1920's New York City, Kay Swift, a classically trained pianist plays at the parties for New York's elite. At one of these parties she catches the eye of James Warburg, the son of a wealthy banker. Soon, Kay is at the top of New York's social ladder but has not forgotten her dream of playing music. After seeing George Gershwin perform Rhapsody in Blue, Kay becomes mesmerized with his style of music and the man himself. Kay refocuses on her musical career with George and finds herself enamored with George as well. With her music finally making its mark, Kay is pulled between her family and George while trying to carve out her own place in the world.
Rhapsody is written in a style much like Gershwin's music, familiar yet new with different pushes and pulls to show you what you already knew was there. Everyone knows the name of George Gershwin, but many people do not know Kay Swift. Kay was the first woman to write the complete score to a Broadway musical though many only know her for her involvement with Gershwin. Rhapsody entwines the stories of Kay, James and George to create a rounded view on how this odd trio helped to define an era of American music. Using many historical accuracies, the story of how their music evolved is written in a way that managed to bring the music to life on the page. I was amazed at Gershwin's abilities as well as his commitment to the communities that he found inspiration from. Kay's life was double sided as she faced the dilemma of many women, being a wife, mother and having a career. It was very interesting to see Kay's relationship with her children and husband and her choices to focus on her music and happiness instead. Along with Kay and George, I also learned about James Warburg. I had no idea that he also wrote lyrics for Kay's songs. While Kay's life with Gershwin may have been complicated at best, Rhapsody unravels some of the mysteries surrounding this time of Kay Swift's life.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. re to edit.
Mitchell James Kaplan graduated with honors from Yale University, where he won the Paine Memorial Prize for Best Long-Form Senior Essay submitted to the English Department. His first mentor was the author William Styron.
After college, Kaplan lived in Paris, France, where he worked as a translator, then in Southern California, where he worked as a screenwriter and in film production.
He lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with his family and two cats.
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