Length: 352 pages
From the publisher:
On a Boston street one warm spring day after a long New England winter, Hazel and Remy spot each other for the first time in years. Under ordinary circumstances, this meeting might seem insignificant. But Remy, a gifted violinist, is married to the composer Nicholas Elko-once the love of Hazel’s life.
It has been twenty years since Remy, a conservatory student whose ambition may outstrip her talent; Nicholas, a wunderkind suddenly struggling with a masterwork he cannot fully realize; and his wife, beautiful and fragile Hazel, first came together and tipped their collective world on its axis. Over the decades, each has buried disappointments and betrayals that now threaten to undermine their happiness. But as their entwined stories unfold from 1987 to 2007, from Europe to America, from conservatory life to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, each will discover the surprising ways in which the quest to create something real and true–be it a work of art or one’s own life–can lead to the most personal of revelations, including the unearthing of secrets we keep, even from ourselves.
Here’s what I thought:
Although I certainly appreciate music, I’ve never studied an instrument beyond a few years of clarinet in junior high school. Yet although Sight Reading focuses on the world and work of professional musicians, my lack of knowledge didn’t pose a barrier to my understanding of the book or its characters. Rather, music is the theme that brings together all the varied elements of the plot and gives resonance to the story.
Kalotay is one of those impressive writers who manages to take a complex story structure and make the telling of that story seem effortless. Although there are lots of characters and alternating points of view, these shifts never become confusing or interfere with the natural flow of her writing. I found myself caught up in the world that the book presents from the very first pages, and as a result I flew through the book over the course of one weekend, hardly putting it down.
The characters are interesting and multi-layered, and although it did take me a while to warm up to any one in particular, by the end I definitely had a strong affinity with Remy. She has a forthright way of interacting with others as well as a dedication to her work and the people whom she loves that I found admirable. I enjoyed getting inside the head of a professional violinist, seeing through her own eyes what music means to her.
My favorite aspect of the book, though, was its underlying analogy about sight-reading. Just as a musician must attempt a piece for the first time, knowing they will likely make mistakes and errors in judgement, such is life–we may get second chances, opportunities to practice certain elements and even to perfect them, but we have to relish the freedom that comes with being a beginner and not be afraid to try. Each of the characters experiences this is their own way, and I found the message to be a profound one.
If I had one complaint about the book, it would be that the ending was a bit abrupt and there was one storyline in particular that I wish had felt more resolved. Overall, though, I really liked this book and would definitely recommend it. I’ll be looking out for Kalotay’s earlier works as well—more to add to the TBR pile!
About the author:
Daphne Kalotay is the author of the award-winning novel Russian Winter, which has been published in twenty languages, and the fiction collection Calamity and Other Stories. A MacDowell Fellow, she has received fellowships from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, and Yaddo, and has taught at Boston University, Skidmore College, and Middlebury College. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. You can find out more about her through her website and Facebook page.
Thanks so much to Edelweiss and Harper for providing me with a copy of this book, and thanks to TLC Book Tours for giving me a chance to share my review.
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