Writing: 5/5 Characters: 4.5/5 Plot: 4/5
A beautiful book about self-discovery, identity (in the classic sense), and a search for “home” amidst the angst and displacement of Covid. The music and musical themes that lay at the absolute center of the story had wonderful depth and were enlightening, inspiring, and real. I listened to this as an audio book. It was narrated by Alix Dunmore who was so good that I’m seeking out her other narrations because she put a voice to the prose so very well.
Elsa M. Anderson — a former child prodigy — was at the height of her career as a pianist when she walked off the stage in Vienna in the middle of a performance of Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto. Now there is a pandemic on, her teacher (who adopted her at age six) is dying far away in Sardinia, and Elsa is roaming Europe, teaching a few lessons, playing very little, and allowing herself to go wherever currents take her. She sees a woman in Athens who she feels is her double, and sees her repeatedly throughout the story, serving as a kind of foil that both drives Elsa and causes her to reflect.
The writing is beautiful — poetic, but not to the point of losing content. I would have many quotes if I weren’t listening to it without an opportunity to write them down. I loved the other characters and the interactions that allowed Elsa to learn more about herself with every engagement. I loved the role of music and how it informed the very way she thought. I loved the way she taught music sensitivity to a young and brilliant student with an overbearing parent. I love the interplay between music, life, and emotions that comprises the mind of a true musician. I loved the fact that the ending didn’t really tell you what would happen in the future, but I was left with a sense of where she was going simply from “living her life” with her. In case you can’t tell, I loved this book!
Lastly, while I don’t have an exact quote, I very much liked Elsa’s answer when her friend mocked her (Elsa’s) interest in Isadora Duncan, who he said was “ridiculous.” Elsa retorted that she (Isadora) had to be ridiculous because she was making something new. That made me think.
Thank you to Macmillan Audio and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on June 6th, 2023