sometimes witty book reviews
I had not heard of this Subhash Jaireth before being gifted this book. As the narrative was partially set in Russia (I like things about Russia), partially set in India (I also like things about India) and about music (I have a degree in classical music), I was pretty sure I would like it. Indeed the present-giver affirmed how very well they knew me in the choice of said text. I like this book, it’s not a bad book. But as is so often the case when you have specialist expertise, you are often left unimpressed by books about your special subject.
For a short book with a concentrated set of characters, one would think that setting scenes in Russia, Australia, Italy and India would make the narrative loose and incoherent. Jaireth, however, does an excellent job of keeping his themes coherent and his subjects in line. My only real criticism is the approach to music. As a trained musician I find the discussion of music to be at times a bit vague and very generalised. The theme of music throughout one’s life is described as a key aspect of the novel. The blurb emphasises it and the entire back cover is taken up with the image of a cello. But the sentimental descriptions of various classical pieces and soundscapes don’t quite ring true. It feels like the lead female just ‘happens to be’ a cellist who’s father loved jazz. Music just doesn’t appear to be as central to the plot as the final chapters try to make out.
What this book does capture well is the place ex-lovers take in the lives of those they have left and the connections such relationships never quite manage to sever. Jaireth also has the unique skill of being able to capture the blissful melancholy that nineteenth century Russian authors provoke while living in the twenty-first. Indeed he does it so well that I will try to source some of his poetry. This is not a bad read and Jaireth is not a bad writer. In fact he’s very good and writing about all sorts of things. It seems his interests are broad and diverse as are the subjects of his academic papers.A book lover will like this, an avid classical musician may be a bit disappointed.
Reading suggestion: A good book to read on-and-off as a break from hard-slog texts (like The Iliad for example).