On the Overgrown Path // by David Herter (First Republic trilogy, book 1)
EN ROUTE FROM BRATISLAVA TO PRAGUE in the deceptive spring of the 1920s, Leoš Janáček, famed opera composer, ethnographer, and amateur psychologist, is stranded in an obscure and enigmatic mountain village, lured from his train by a song of blood. Here, Janáček must become a detective far from home. Attempting to solve a bizarre murder in which he himself is suspect — and whose perpetrator might be a wild animal, a jealous lover, or Nature unhinged — he brings to bear his singular skills of observation and poetic insight, and most importantly, his belief in the truthfulness of the “little melodies” heard in everyday life: the cry of a bird, the plash of snow from the eaves, the horrendous lie voiced with a smile. What he uncovers is a many-stranded aria of ravenous Nature and mischievous Time, threatening to consume his world.
Newly revised and expanded, On the Overgrown Path inaugurates David Herter’s First Republic trilogy, an epic tale of death and rebirth set in the hinterlands of Europe between the World Wars, featuring a group of real-life artists who clash with the clockwork of Time.
“Just as there are touches of D M Thomas’s The White Hotel (1981) in Herter’s depiction through his beloved Janáček of the warp and weave of a civilization under stress, so there are suggestions of Algernon Blackwood’s “The Willows”(1907) in the way he spells his great composer into tranced rapport with whatever breathes inside the wood and does not wish to be carved into music.”~John Clute