Beethoven's often-discussed "dark side"--marked by paranoia, narcissism, and obsession--is brought into focus by Peter J. Davies, who examines both the composer's genetic roots and the familial cruelty and neglect that defined his childhood. But this book is more than a biography, eschewing facile psychoanalysis in favor of a real exploration of how Beethoven's character shaped the work now universally regarded as among the best music ever written. Davies acutely observes the ways in which suffering can bring, at the same time, both madness and genius. The author begins by tracing the medical history of mental disorders in Beethoven's family, and then goes on to detail the composer's religious beliefs and attitudes, his daily work habits and pastimes, and elements of his character including manic depression. Though the work does not purport to be a musical analysis, it does consider the many ways in which the things that shape an artist go on to shape his art.