The Budapest Artists' Club

Fiction - Womens
165 Pages
Reviewed on 02/13/2020
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

I am a musician, turned writer.

There is a real Artists' Club in Budapest, where the great and the good have gathered over the past century (longer?), but my Budapest Artists' Club is fictional, and based on some memorable nights out surrounded by musicians and dancers in some truly retro bars, restaurants and venues after the end of communism when I travelled regularly to the old eastern bloc.

The novel was a way of me saying thank you for all the great music and musicians I have enjoyed 'live', and to reconcile an intense musical period in my life with the present, as a writer.

I still attend a regular night of music and dance here in Budapest where - and I can't believe my luck - the music and the vibe is as good as it ever was.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jaycee Allen for Readers' Favorite

In The Budapest Artists’ Club by Claire Doyle, Laura and her boyfriend Dany have been encouraged by a group of Transylvanian musicians to leave London and come to Budapest for an extended stay. But all is not what it seems: Dany, an instrument maker, becomes involved in a scheme to substitute a viola in a Romanian museum with a newer one he will create, and he soon decides he is in love with someone else. Laura must now depend upon friends for a place to sleep, and to practice the rustic folk instrument she is learning to play. She plans to return to London alone, but before leaving she unwittingly becomes involved in a complicated intrigue. Twenty years later, disillusioned with London and the life there, Laura returns to Budapest. She is older but no less romantic, and she soon begins the search for the magnetic Zoltan she met years before, a man with whom she is certain her future happiness lies.

The Budapest Artists’ Club is not merely a tale about uncertain relationships, nor is it a simple intrigue or a love story, although deception and romance are always present. It is a book that deftly leads us into worlds we might never otherwise discover: the traditional and classical Hungarian music scene; the fascinating techniques of Transylvanian instrument playing, and an appreciation of folk instruments; the magic of dance halls; and Budapest’s very unique atmosphere. Such a wealth of information is more than satisfying, but when combined with Clare Doyle’s lovely dreamlike writing style and her rich imagery, The Budapest Artists' Club becomes pure delight.

Joshua H

A wonderful, lyrical novel with some beautiful language and imagery. Doyle pulls you into Budapest amidst snow, food and wine, music and dancing. If you're looking for a quick read and enjoy in-depth, engaging dialogue and strong depictions of scenery, this is an excellent choice. Highly recommending here and to my friends.

Peter M Hartley

This is an enthralling concerto of a book. It is both intensely personal and deeply pluralist. Several themes swirl around the soloist at the centre. It has the seductive allure of a musical meme wherein the central theme hooks the listener and retains a pull amid an eddy of complementary refrains. It is crafted in a very particular style and, like the viola that is constructed within the story, it is built firmly on astute observation and convincing experience.

Music and dance feature constantly in this tale but the central melody is modern love and its struggle to remain dominant in the face of fickle friendships. There are secondary themes that swell in and out whilst also harmonising with the core narrative even when presented apparently contrapuntally; the collateral impact of modernity, the human architectures of political legacies, and the social fluidity of cosmopolitan and bohemian lifestyles.

Set mostly in the eponymous Hungarian city the novel orchestrates a strangely compelling tale of tightened heartstrings amid a curios assembly of characters. As with many orchestral works its attraction is particular and ineffable and yet somehow also appealing. Occasionally the switch in time signatures is temporarily wrong-footing, but the central melody is sufficiently endearing to draw the attentive reader in to the place where secret scores are uncovered and rewarding chords are plucked from deep within the tonal texture.

To read this novel is to engage in a literary dance. The music and movement are all. If the tune and tempo are to your taste, you may well find yourself whisked away into this intelligent, yet intuitive, romance. It’s thoughtful and heartfelt, wise and wistful, heady and grounded.

E P Clark

"The Budapest Artists' Club" takes place over two separate trips to Budapest, one on the brink of the new millennium, one almost twenty years later. In her first trip to Budapest, Laura loses her boyfriend but gains musical skills, and is caught up in a plot to switch out a viola under its keeper's nose. Although her time in Budapest is full of problems, Laura nonetheless falls in love with the city. She returns almost two decades later in search of some of that same magic, and maybe love.

"The Budapest Artists' Club" captures the flavor of that turn-of-the-millennium excitement, and of Central-Eastern European cities then. I've never been to Budapest but have always wanted to go; reading the book reminded me of how much I've missed traveling, and by the time I was done, I was already mapping out potential itineraries in my head.

This is not a long or difficult book, but it has a complicated structure, intercutting the two different time lines, so it requires a little bit of attention in that way. It combines aspects of "women's fiction" with the faint hit of a Cold War thriller in the viola-switching plot, and also has a number of musings on the current state of Europe. Some readers might not appreciate that, but for me they were the best part of the book, and I found myself highlighting several of them. While "The Budapest Artists' Club" is not heavy reading, it provides more food for thought than a lot of other books out there.