Books with a music theme

Unintentionally, I read three adult fiction books with a music theme over January. I’m not really a musical person – I used to play the piano as a kid but that’s about it. But I do identify with musicians as other creative types and I admire both their discipline and passion.

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  • Nora Webster by Colm Toibin – a friend lent me this quiet book about a woman living in Ireland in the late 1960s, who has been recently widowed. Her two daughters are older and working and studying away from home while her two sons are at school and living with her. Her husband’s death changes everything, but in slow, gradual ways. She is forced to become more independent and make decisions about her house, finances and children by herself. It is a slow blossoming into a different self, one who remembers that she loved singing and used to be quite good. This different self also finds a job, makes new friends and brings back music into her life. It is definitely a quiet book – it is Nora’s strong character that pulls the reader into the pages.

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  • The best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion – this author needs no introduction. He followed up his best-selling book, The Rosie Project with a sequel, The Rosie Effect. This is his third book, and it is different from the first two. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed with it. I had such high expectations – I expected it to be like The Rosie Project, and even better. (I read some reviews afterwards which suggested you should NOT expect the books to be the same!) My expectations are very unfair to the author – why can’t he write a different book and who says the third book has to be better than the first? Sometimes the author wants to break away from his previous style and try something new. I loved the quirky way of thinking from Professor Don Tillman in The Rosie Project. However, this detailed way of thinking for the protagonist, Adam Sharp, didn’t work as well in my view. Adam Sharp plays the piano and sings, and it is music that connects him to the great lost love of his life, both when they were together and after they separated. Music fans will appreciate the constant references to songs from the 60s and 70s – it’s a steady backdrop to the dramas of the love story. There’s also a playlist for this book at Spotify. I’m interested to know whether you’ve read The best of Adam Sharp, and whether you liked it.

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  • Music and Freedom by Zoe Morrison – such a great book. Set first in Australia, then London and Oxford, then back in Australia, the protagonist is Alice Murray, a talented pianist. There is barely a breath of joy in her life until almost the end of it, but despite this, the book is a triumphant story. The book flicks from earlier scenes to later scenes, so the reader has an understanding of how the later Alice was formed by events that happened earlier. If you appreciate piano music, the music is beautifully described, and if you’re not a pianist, you’re in for an educational treat. I felt like I was inside the life of Alice, with each scene adding another layer to her character.

My book reading in January was quite serendipitous – three randomly chosen books which connected around the theme of music. Has that ever happened to you?

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