Saturday, July 31, 2010

Dead People's Music | Sarah Laing

This book took me by surprise. I'm not sure what I was expecting but it certainly delivered a great read. The story is well structured and is told in three voices: young Rebecca in Wellington, New Zealand, Rebecca a bit older in New York and Rebecca's grandmother Karla in New York and New Zealand from the 1930's onwards.

Rebecca is a gifted cellist who wants to become a concert performer. She struggles with diabetes and the usual teenage angst as she trains and sits exams to study in London.  London is too much of a challenge and she returns home discouraged, but still believing in her talent which she believes is inherited from her grandmother. Her voice is clear and believable.

We meet Klara as a young child, a German Jew sent away just as the war began. With her sister they grow up in New York with an Aunt and other refugees from Europe. She learns the cello and is very gifted. A brilliant career as a soloist is hers for the taking except she meets and marries a New Zealander. Off she goes to the antipodes. We get a very good idea of what life in Wellington must have been like in the 50's and 60's.
Rebecca eventually goes to New York in the 90's to write and perform a modern composition based on her grandmother's life.

Laing has put together an interesting and engaging story and we are drawn into Rebecca's life and her family and friends. There is a lot of detail about classical music (dead people's music) and what it takes to be a dedicated musician. Both Wellington and New York are well drawn and easy to imagine. This novel is well worth reading.

Dead People's Music
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