To “sight read” is to read and perform a piece of written music that the performer is seeing for the first time. Through the interwoven lives of this ensemble of characters, this novel surfaces life lessons. You’ll watch the characters as they live life’s symphony that builds crescendos, has its sad points, and also its joyful allegrezzas.
Remy plays violin and is a serious symphonic student. She is obsessed with perfect mechanics, and strives to excel beyond second best. Nicholas is a composer, and a conductor, and a musician, and a teacher. He is the love of Hazel’s life. The three meet while living in Boston. As they “sight read” their way through the unexpected life events over two decades, their actions affect not only their own lives, but also their friends and family. Those affects are sometimes positive and sometimes negative. One of the themes in the book is that life doesn’t allow for playing “egocentrically.” Instead it is through harmony that everything falls into place. But will these characters learn this lesson, or fight it?
Don’t worry that the writing might be overloaded with technical music terms that could interrupt the reader’s enjoyment. Daphne Kalotay is a story teller who has a lyrical writing style that flows naturally. This story is a masterpiece that will linger in your thoughts long after you finish it. Kalotay is drawn to stories about artists. Her first novel, “Russian Winter,” is about ballet. She has said that her interest in the performing arts includes describing the combination of intense dedication and relaxed creativity necessary to create art. Peripheral to the performing arts, some characters in this book express their creativity through avenues other than music, with a similar dedication.
This book’s tempo beautifully illustrates how fast and sometimes how slowly life moves. You have heard it before – life is not a rehearsal, this is the performance. Remy’s teacher, named Conrad Lesser, advises: We never know what life might toss at us. Not only must you be able to continue to perform, but you must not be afraid of such unexpected things. Learn to play, and to live without fear of the unexpected.
As the characters each struggle with their own challenges and desires, they reveal how very human they each are. They are flawed and talented, skilled and creative, sometimes confused and emotional. At one point in the novel, as characters are facing obstacles to their plans and wishes, Oscar Wilde is quoted “In this world there are only two tragedies; one is not getting what one wants, the other is getting it.”
Thereby hangs a tale . . . .
– By Wendy Kendall
Wendy Kendall is a writer, project manager and volunteer at the Edmonds Library. She’s enjoyed living in Edmonds for over 20 years. Follow her via her blog here or on Twitter @wendywrites1.