Then I started reading and I found it very difficult to put down. I have read at least half a dozen books since, and this stays firmly in my mind.
It has a musical theme running through it, and part of my anxiety was because of this - although I like music, I'm far from expert. But actually, I don't think you have to much interest in classical music to enjoy the novel, any more than you need an intimate knowledge of any industry to appreciate a story that's set against it.
There were two passages that I did not like. Both of them were dialogue - or speeches - by oppressed people, a pre-War Hungarian Jew and a contemporary Sussex Traveller. In both cases, the words moved me, and I was sure they were passionate and honest words from the author and the characters. But, in my experience, people don't speak like that, except seasoned politicians, and then, not often. But that's my only quibble in 400 pages.
What I liked best was the characters. All the main characters had more than facet. I have subsequently read a novel by a more famous author which really began to annoy me, because all the 'good' people were good all the time, and the 'bad' people really had no redeeming features. In Hungarian Dances, the main characters had several undramatic flaws, as real 'good' people do. Making wrong decisions, or taking actions for the wrong reasons, or not thinking through the consequences of their actions.
The most vivid character was Karina, the 30-something female star, from whose point of view the story was told. The most exciting was Mimi, her grandmother. Once she had been glamorous, a star violinist, but I appreciated how the author depicted her frailty. Hints she had once been larger than life, but now, diminished by age.
The book was tremendously readable in many different ways. A natural prose style that flowed easily and enabled me to get past the act of reading and into the storyline. The drama progressed at a pace, with no superfluous action or irritating tangents, or affected literary devices. There was some switching between contemporary times and 'historic' times - Mimi's youth in pre-war Hungary - but this was seamless and largely logical. I didn't spot anything incongruous or unlikely; perhaps some would question the use of a (fictional) fatal train disaster as a plot device - too convenient - but as people have often said, the answer to the question 'Why is this happening to me?' is generally 'Why not?'. It was pleasurably amusing to read in a book about the worries about how the transport infrastructure would cope with the London 2012 Games, and feel smug in my superior knowledge that it had coped just fine - but the worries were salient to the dramatic line.
An enjoyable and absorbing book, thought-provoking and moving. When I finished it, I felt glad I had read it, even though I regretted I had stayed up half the night to do so!