Sonata in Wax: A Novel


Available now for preorder. 

Sonata in Wax is a terrific novel—immersive, compelling, smart, the story propelled by a cast of complex, full-bodied characters and the author’s absolute mastery of the musical worlds he conjures…I’m knocked flat with admiration for this splendid book.”

— Ben Fountain, National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author of
Devil Makes Three

“Sonata in Wax is an absolutely gorgeous novel…I was reminded of Ian McEwan in the way that small details are used to build a big scene, and in the nuance Hamlin brings to Ben’s conflict over revealing the truth about the sonata. Sonata is a beautifully told mystery. I loved it.”

— Jane Harper, international bestselling author of
The Dry

“Sonata in Wax is lush with music, mystery, and lyrical prose. Edward Hamlin manages to take the story of a lost sonata and transform it into a literary symphony. A wonderful debut novel!”

— Dominic Smith, New York Times bestselling author of
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos

Click here for more advance praise for Sonata in Wax

A Musical Mystery—and the Story of a Lie

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 identities 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.

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In Search of Forgotten Genius, in Life as in Fiction

As Ben Weil slowly unwinds the mystery of the French sonata, his path leads through the work of the turn-of-the-century composer Lili Boulanger, whose career was tragically cut short by illness. One of Lili’s brief fragments for piano gives Ben a vital clue to the origins of the sonata in wax.

Now, a century after Lili’s death at the age of twenty-four, concert pianist Natalia Kazaryan is working to bring Lili Boulanger’s work—and the work of other neglected woman composers—the recognition it deserves. Here’s Natalia’s moving performance of the Trois morceaux, the first of which is the fragment that captures Ben Weil’s imagination.


Learn more about Natalia Kazaryan’s work here.