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An Equal Music by Vikram Seth - Book Review


An Equal Music
Vikram Seth

Fiction-Net Rating 4 Star Rated Book

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Cover Story

A chance sighting on a bus. A letter which should never have been read. A pianist with a secret that touches the heart of her music. An Equal Music is a book about love, about the love of a woman lost and found and lost again. It is a book about music and how the love of music can run like a passionate fugue through a life. It is the story of Michael, of Julia and the love that binds them.

We Say

Clearly, this book has an inextricable relationship with music and much has been said about the fact that this is its greatest strength. It is not only about music but even reads like a perfectly structured symphony or song. There are times when it meanders slowly, building images and events gently and thoughtfully. Then it builds to the most moving moments which feel exactly like hearing a favourite song or melody and the hairs on the back of the neck prickle with anticipation.

Vikram Seth's research for this novel must have been thorough as the world of the classical musician on the concert circuit is presented in great detail. Even the technical difficulties of a string quartet playing certain pieces are explored in depth, such as the need to tune down a viola several tones in order to play 'The Art of Fugue'. Some readers may find this a little tedious or difficult to relate to but it can be seen as an important part of the backdrop in which the difficulties of creating beauty in music are mirrored in trying to find beauty and perfection in life.

An Equal Music is a sad story, which could be totally depressing if it weren't so beautiful and true. Vikram Seth is able to write with a sense of poetry, which again, is almost musical to read. However, it is not too flowery and the way in which the characters feel and react to one another is convincing, direct and clear. The central character, Michael, has complex relationships with several people including former love Julia, his father and his colleagues in the string quartet. These are all developed in an insightful and intriguing way with surprises and twists to keep you hooked. It all builds to a wonderful conclusion where the settings are Vienna and then Venice, perfect for romance or heartbreak.

Review by: Rachel Taylor

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