In Kathryn Davis’s second novel, Frances Thorn, waitress and single parent of twins, finds herself transformed by the dazzling magnetism of Helle Ten Brix, an elderly Danish composer of operas. At the heart of what binds them is “The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf,” the Hans Christian Andersen tale of a prideful girl who, in order to spare her new shoes, uses the loaf of bread intended as a gift for her parents as a stepping-stone, and ends up sinking to the bottom of a bog. Helle’s final opera, based on this tale and unfinished at the time of her death, is willed to Frances—a life-changing legacy that compels Frances to unravel the mysteries of Helle’s story and, in so doing, to enter the endlessly revolving, intricate world of her operas.
The ravishing beauty and matchless wit that have characterized Davis’s work from the beginning are here on full display. The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf is a novel as thrilling in its virtuosity as it is moving in its homage to the power of art, a power that changes lives forever.