An Equal Music Paperback
by Vikram Seth
A powerful love story from the author of the international bestseller A SUITABLE BOY 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 of the love that binds them. 'A novel that can stand being reread and reread, but the first time round is an emotional cliffhanger ...secure a copy for yourself, settle down, and prepare for the unforgettable' Sunday Times
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 496 pages
- Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
- Publication Date: 20/12/1999
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780753807736
Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.
Review by angelic_angel88
I think <i>An Equal Music</i> by Vikram Seth is a true masterpiece. I picked up the book because it was about a violinist, as I am as well, although I haven't picked up my violin in a while. The book so accurately portrays the joy and wonders of being a musician, along with the struggles and hardships that a musician faces.<i>The Daily Mail</i> newspaper claimed that this book is a "masterpiece...as clear, lovely and civilised as a Schubert quartet', which is also how I feel. The book reads like a music score. There are slow and beautiful parts, and quick and heart racing parts. This book is simply a masterpiece.The protagonist Michael is a violinist in a string quartet with his closest friends. He nurtures the heartache of his lost love Julia, the love of his life. Their relationship fell apart but his feelings for her never died, despite the years that have passed since he last saw her.He is eventually reunited with her when she comes along to one of his quartet's performances. She is now married with a child, but has a terrible problem that could destroy her music career. The story picks up dramatically as we follow Michael and Julia. We long to see them in love again. But can her problem affect their relationship as well as her music career?<i>An Equal Music</i> takes us through a rollercoaster ride of emotions. We follow Michael's journey with his beloved violin, the beautiful Tononi, and his hobby of swimming. We share the same longings and hopes that he has. We want the best for him.Do not be discouraged if you are not a musician. This book will touch your heart just as it has touched mine even if you are not a musician. There are several musical terms used in this book, but a quick search for them in the dictionary will show you what they mean.
Review by Tid
Michael is a violin player. Michael plays in a string quartet. Michael's two loves are his violin and his ex-lover Julia. Michael tracks down a rare Beethoven quintet. From these bare bones, Vikram Seth constructs a sonata of a novel. Music is the narrative thread, indeed it is more than that : it is the heart of the story. It weaves in and around the complex dynamics and strange interpersonal relationships that lie at the claustrophobic heart of a string quartet.This is a novel of unresolved relationships, in the manner of a fugue that never quite manages to properly conclude. Why did Michael abandon Julia in Vienna years before? What was the big problem between him and his teacher Carl Kall? What drives the individual members of the quartet - what combines them and what separates them?Seth pursues these threads while always keeping the music at the forefront of the readers' minds : a mysterious Beethoven quintet, Bach's "Art Of Fugue", Schubert's "Trout Quintet", the dynamics of string instruments, rehearsals and public performance. Only at one point - the interlude in Venice towards the end of the book - does the music take a (comparative) back seat, and it is no surprise that this is where the story dips in tension and meanders a little. The strength of the novel lies in its descriptions - closely observed, poetic, vivid, and yet somehow spare too; the narrative is nicely paced, with tensions largely maintained and no needless sidetracks. If anything, the sense of claustrophobia is built remorselessly through the first half of the novel, and while it persists through to the end, the accompanying tension and slight sense of mystery seems to dissipate somewhat in the second half.The novel's big flaw - though this may have been Seth's intention? - is the character of its narrator Michael. Several women appear to fall for him, yet it is hard to understand why. He is moody, selfish in a nagging and insistent kind of way, and apparently insensitive to his lovers' needs due to his emotional immaturity. He is in many senses every woman's nightmare : initially impressing as attractive, sensitive, artistic and talented, but poisoning this through his marked negative traits which emerge sooner or later. The love for him by Julia is particularly incomprehensible, and in her position I would either given him a good slap, or given up on him pretty quick; I certainly would not have returned for a second helping.That aside, this is an absorbing book and it is not essential to have a deep knowledge of music in order to enjoy it.
Review by Eyejaybee
This is a marvellous novel on so many different planes. Michael Home is a violinist whose life has been devoted to music . Ten years before the novel starts, in the late 1980s, he was an impoverished student at a conservatoire in Vienna where he mat and fell madly in love with Julia, a talented pianist. Everything seems set for them to stay together, marry and pursue their careers when Michael suddenly, but irreparably falls out with his tutor and, without notice, leaves both Vienna and Julia MacNichol. Almost immediately Michael realises his error, at least with regard to Julia, and he struggles to re-establish contact with her, but she has passed completely from his life.Over the intervening years he has established himself as an accomplished violinist, taking occasional commissions to play in orchestras and smaller ensembles, and for the last six years has been second fiddle in the renowned Maggiore Quartet. Relations within the Quartet are not easy, and there are particular tensions with Piers, the first violinist who is an especially prickly character. Still, the Quartet moves from success to greater success, and has just been commissioned to undertake performance in Vienna and Venice, and to complete a recording for a specialist classical label. And then, from the top of a London bus that has been brought to a stop on Oxford Street, Michael glimpses Julia on top of a bus going in the other direction. He chases after her, even flagging down a taxi and pleading with the cab-driver to, "Follow that bus!", but seems to have lost her again.They do, however, meet again, and Michael finds that Julia is now married, and has established herself as a revered solo pianist under her married name. Their friendship is rekindled, and Michael learns that Julia has a devastating secret.While their relationship has been re-established the Quartet has become increasingly successful, and seems now to be on the verge of breaking through to the front rank of classical performers. Seth was himself in a long-term relationship with French violinist, Philippe Honore, himself a feted performer and sometime member of various high profile chamber music ensembles. The work is set through with detailed musical insights, though this never becomes oppressive, even to a dilettante such as myself. Indeed, the insight to the tensions within the quartet, and the occasional jealousies that the contrasting roles can engender, are fascinating. The different members of the quartet are clearly drawn: Piers, the highly-strung (no feeble pun intended), gay first violinist, wracked with paranoia and very defensive over his role as leader, Piers's sister Helen, the viola player, who is the peacemaker, and Billy, the intellectual cellist and technician, who develops the official briefing notes for the quartet's forays into any new piece. The relationship between the four is vibrant - constantly changing and as mutually nourishing when it works as it is draining when strained. Seth also paints a sympathetic picture of the constant economic plight of the performers, most of whom are using borrowed instruments which leave them at the mercy of their benefactors. Michael's violin is actually owned by Mrs Formby, a rich old widow from his native Rochdale who took and early interest in him as a boy. We never learn how she came to own the Tononi violin which she has lent to Michael. He loves the violin almost more than life itself, and lives in constant fear that she will reclaim it, especially once he learns that her nephew (and closest living relative) has been dropping hints to her about his need to finance his daughters' education. Piers is in a similar quandary, and there is a marvellous scene at a musical auction house when Piers bids for a particularly lovely Rogeri violin.I was entranced by the descriptions of the different pieces that the Quartet plays, with the performer's insight offering a totally different perspective to that of the occasional listener.A beautiful book with some startling episodes that are entirely unexpected, yet also utterly believable. This is, by far, the finest novel about music that I have read.
Review by PennyAnne
Another book I picked off my shelf simply because it had been sitting there unread for years and again I ask myself "why did I leave it so long?" I loved this book - the deep exploration of music and musicians, the strange love story, the descriptions, the language, the fact that it references Vienna - just an all-round great book! #EqualMusic #VikramSeth