Lawrence Nolan, a gifted pianist, grows up in the shadow of his mother’s mental illness. A Secret Music is a rite of passage debut novel that brings prolific music, family neglect and numbing guilt to life in 1936 Montreal. Hindered by unwarranted responsibility and shameful secrets, Lawrence yearns to pursue his passion on the world stage.

In her absorbing and warm-hearted debut novel, A Secret Music, Susan Doherty Hannaford braids these fascinating subjects – music and madness – into a poignant family story. … Full disclosure: I cried at least once while reading this book and did not want to part with the Nolan family when I turned the last page. A Secret Music sings.
— Montreal Review of Books
This evocative novel is a compelling, vividly detailed story of Montreal in the 1930s. Swing jazz, boogie-woogie, and Chopin’s Nocturnes provide a richly sonorous accompaniment to this portrait of a young musician forced to confront a dark family secret and the weight of his own conscience.
— Claire Holden Rothman, author of The Heart Specialist and My October
A Secret Music is a powerful debut.
— The Toronto Star
A striking debut novel … brought to life by a sharp eye for physical and sensory detail and meticulous historical accuracy.
— Montreal Gazette

News about a secret music

The Montreal Gazette Review by Ian McGillis

The Toronto Star review by Linda Diebel

Montreal Review of Books by Ami Sands Brodoff

Ottawa Review of Books by Menaka Ramen-Wilms