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An Equal Music (1999)

by Vikram Seth

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2,949604,854 (3.74)105
A second-time-around romance between Michael, a violinist and Julia, a pianist. He runs into her on a London bus and learns she is married to a banker and has a son. They resume their love, but drama lies ahead as Julia is going deaf. By the author of A Suitable Boy.

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English (50)  Catalan (2)  French (2)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  Dutch (1)  Hungarian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (60)
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
I was disappointed in this book. I was looking forward to a novel that had lots of musical detail in it and it definitely succeeded there, and the writing about playing was excellent. But the prose surrounding the main plot of the novel was extremely self-conscious, overwrought and annoying. I didn't find much to like in the main character (beyond his talents as a musician, which came across) and couldn't see any reason for this great love that existed between him and Julia. ( )
  lschiff | Sep 24, 2023 |
Great read for anyone who has played been part of a musical ensemble. True-to-life rehearsal conversations, personality conflicts, etc. ( )
  Martha_Thayer | Jan 13, 2022 |
Vikram Seth is one of those writers who belong to a different realm altogether. His language flows like a fresh stream -- clear, alive, authentic. Even the most esoteric of subjects becomes engrossing and comprehensible. In this novel, a classical violinist, part of a quartet, is unhappy. Music is the only thing that still keeps him going, and then someone from his past returns into his life and plunges him into a despairing last grasp at love.

You don't have to know anything about quartets or music to be mesmerized by the arrangements, the issues involved in being part of a musical group. Then there is the love story -- the wonderful pain of a second chance that really isn't. And last, the tragedy of losing the ability to do the one thing you were meant to do. All of this comes together in this touching novel. Bravo! ( )
  Marse | Oct 3, 2021 |
Music is one of the main characters in this novel. It is the connection that runs through the protagonists' life. Sometimes it brings them together, and other times it tears them apart.

Michael Holme is a violinist in a quartet of chamber music. Music is central in his life. In fact it was the one influence that uplifted him from his working class background in Rochdale near Manchester. Yet although quite accomplished as a musician in London, his beloved violin is still one he borrowed from an elderly violinist in his hometown, the woman who nurtured his love and talent for music. Now his life revolves around recreating and re-interpreting classical music with his quartet. And he helps finance his artist's life with the "mutual drudgery" of teaching the violin to an array of students with varied degrees of dedication. The inward and outward order of his life is suddenly brought into chaos after a chance meeting with Julia, the lover he never managed to forget.

The writers describes the emotional journey Michael takes in the space between the absence and resurrection of love, and how this emotional journey exacts a great toll on his career and life.

I enjoyed the treatment of the universal themes of love and loss through the prism of a musician's life. Michael, and to some extent the other musical characters, are naturally intense and they express feelings through their performances, and interactions with each other, and the world. Micheal is hugely flawed and selfish, but his emotions and responses are believable.

Also interesting are the small insights into the chamber music scene. I learned for example, about the unique bond between the musician and his or her instrument. The special piece becomes closer than a lover, and an extension of the self. This bond can sometime become a destructive obsession, as in a scene where two musicians tried to outbid each other on a violin they both coveted. Michael makes for an interesting guide into this whole scene. Because of his background, he was not born into a privileged background that allowed him to enjoy music, he rather met his musical destiny through his elderly friend Mrs. Formby, and his relationship with the art remains one of wonder and discovery. When I got to know him in the novel, I felt that he was still not fully comfortable in his place in this world, as if he expects that his acquired privilege will be taken from him at some time.

This is a bittersweet story of love, loss and redemption, that will speak to human feelings, and sensitivities, not recommended to those who like a roller coaster ride of non-stop action. ( )
  moukayedr | Sep 5, 2021 |
(8.5)I really enjoyed this book which I would dub a love story, not just of the human kind. The author conveys his own passion for music through his protagonists and even though my knowledge of classical music is limited, this didn't really diminish my enjoyment. ( )
  HelenBaker | Mar 16, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Seth, Vikramprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Arenander, Brittsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bates, Alansecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Birattari, MassomoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Biström, Pirkko(KÄÄnt.)secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grube, AnetteÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jonkheer, ChristienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lundgren, Cajsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mossel, BabetTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Risvik, KariOvers.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Risvik, KjellOvers.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Torrescasana, AlbertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A second-time-around romance between Michael, a violinist and Julia, a pianist. He runs into her on a London bus and learns she is married to a banker and has a son. They resume their love, but drama lies ahead as Julia is going deaf. By the author of A Suitable Boy.

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While a music student in Vienna, violinist Michael Holme falls in love with pianist Julia McNicholl. They play together in a string trio, but when Michael has a nervous breakdown because of tensions with his stern and demanding violin teacher he abruptly leaves Vienna–and Julia–without warning. When, after some months pass, he tries to contact Julia again, he gets no reply. Ten years later, still in love with her, he meets her again in London when she attends a concert he is giving with his string quartet, the Maggiore. Still a performing pianist, she is now married to an American banker, has a child, and because of an auto-immune disease, is gradually going deaf. Unable to resist the power of their past, they begin to see each other again, this time under the shadow of Julia’s marriage and her tragic hearing loss. Julia agrees to tour Vienna and Venice with Michael and the Maggiore Quartet and for a brief, magical time everything seems possible.

A tour de force of poetic, impassioned writing, An Equal Music is an unforgettable tale of love lost and nearly regained, its events unfolding in the dramatic settings of contemporary London, Vienna, and Venice. Brilliantly interweaving themes of loss, longing, and the power of music, Vikram Seth has created a deeply moving story about the strands of passion that run through all our lives.
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