As the Great War rages, a French pianist sits down to play a breathtakingly original sonata—a piece so strange and inspired that it could change the course of classical music. The moment is captured on wax cylinders, the recording medium of the day. But in the tumult of war the fragile cylinders vanish, and with them the identity of the brilliant composer and the virtuoso pianist.

A century later, five timeworn wax cylinders land on the desk of Ben Weil, a revered classical music producer. From the moment he first plays them in his Chicago studio, Ben knows he’s in the presence of genius. The dazzling piece is fifty years ahead of its time, more Coltrane than Debussy—how could it be?

Brought low by a painful divorce, Ben throws himself into unlocking the sonata’s mysteries. But when the renowned pianist Ana Clara Matta stumbles upon the work and takes credit for unearthing it, he’s swept into a lie that could shatter his reputation and his private life at a stroke. Somehow Ben must find a way to tell the truth—a dangerous quest that will lead him not only to the sonata’s surprising origins, but to his own.

Sonata in Wax


A musical mystery whose twin story lines, spanning three generations and two continents, braid together a search for the origins of a century-old, inexplicably modern piano sonata and a family origin story with compelling mysteries of its own. At the center of it all is a lie—and a dangerous quest to find a way to tell the truth.

Edward Hamlin

Edward’s story collection Night in Erg Chebbi and Other Stories was selected by Pulitzer Prize finalist Karen Russell as winner of the 2015 Iowa Short Fiction Award and went on to win the Colorado Book Award. Over the past few years Edward’s work has won the Nelson Algren Award, the Nelligan Prize, the NCW Short Story Prize and a Top of the Mountain Novel Prize.

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Discovering Lili Boulanger

The work of Lili Boulanger is an important keystone in the story. Ben’s discovery of a quoted passage in the fictional sonata gives him insight into the provenance of the work. Boulanger was a female composer whose rediscovery in real life parallels the events of the novel. Among Lili’s foremost advocates and interpreters is the gifted pianist Natalia Kazaryan, who has worked tirelessly to bring Lili’s genius, and that of other less-played female composers such as Clara Schumann, to wider attention. In the videos to the left Natalia plays and discusses the Lili Boulanger piece described in Sonata in Wax.