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A Reader of Fictions: Review: Sight Reading

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Review: Sight Reading

Sight Reading

Author: Daphne Kalotay
Pages: 324
Publisher: Harper
Read: May 25-28, 2013
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

Description from Goodreads:
The critically acclaimed author of Russian Winter turns her "sure and suspenseful artistry" (Boston Globe) to the lives of three colleagues and lovers in the world of classical music in this elegant, beautifully composed novel.

On a Boston street one warm spring day after a long New England winter, Hazel and Remy spot each other for the first time in years. Under ordinary circumstances, this meeting might seem insignificant. But Remy, a gifted violinist, is married to the composer Nicholas Elko-once the love of Hazel's life.

It has been twenty years since Remy, a conservatory student whose ambition may outstrip her talent; Nicholas, a wunderkind suddenly struggling with a masterwork he cannot fully realize; and his wife, beautiful and fragile Hazel, first came together and tipped their collective world on its axis. Over the decades, each has buried disappointments and betrayals that now threaten to undermine their happiness. But as their entwined stories unfold from 1987 to 2007, from Europe to America, from conservatory life to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, each will discover the surprising ways in which the quest to create something real and true--be it a work of art or one's own life--can lead to the most personal of revelations, including the unearthing of secrets we keep, even from ourselves.

Lyrical and evocative, Sight Reading is ultimately an exploration of what makes a family, of the importance of art in daily life, and of the role of intuition in both the creative process and the evolution of the self.

First Sentence: "It was one of those easy May afternoons when everything, including the weather, seems to finally fall into place."

One of the reasons that I've become so taken with young adult fiction in recent years is the focus on coming of age, of finding oneself and accepting that person. Though young adults may grow and change more overtly, this is a lifelong process, and something universally relatable. Yet, somehow, adult fiction rarely focuses on these themes in a similar way, instead showing the way change affects adults through the lens of marital strife and infidelity. Sight Reading is just such a novel, detailing the various affairs of three adults. Though the book is beautifully written, I dislike stories about cheating, so I failed to love Sight Reading as much as Russian Winter.

Daphne Kalotay's prose is glorious. Her writing is the kind that I want to take in slowly, and I make slower progress through her books than I might otherwise, because I really like to chew on the words and appreciate the prose. Her novels feel powerful and meaningful, and have the sort of quotes I want to turn into art for my wall, if I were not too lazy and unartistic for such things.

The parts that focus on the music, too, are brilliant. I loved her descriptions of Nicholas composing and Remy playing the violin. She captures both the love, the suffering, and the boredom that come from their careers. Remy has a constant spot on her neck from her violin. Nicholas suffers from fear that he's no longer the composer he once was and that he'll never complete his symphony. Remy loses her passion for a while, playing by rote and no longer feeling the same drive. Through it all, though, music runs their lives and they could never do anything else, nor would they wish to. The passion, power, and beauty of music runs through the novel.

The big downside for me was that all of the rest focused on the affairs. Nicholas starts out married to Hazel, and they're established as very much in love, drawn to each other from the very beginning. Inevitably, though, he starts getting that itch when she leaves to support her mom during her father's decline in health, and takes up with his student, Remy. Wonderful.

Later on, there are even more affairs, and the behavior of all parties made it impossible for me to like any of them. I didn't feel like any of them really deserved marital happiness, except for Hazel, who I still took an immediate dislike to. At the end, everything resolves into this happily ever after for the couples, now in their fifties (forties for the younger Remy). No cheating story should end with a happily ever after in my opinion, or at least not with the couple still together. That is not my idea of romance or a happy life. That message really does disgust me.

Daphne Kalotay is massively talented, but I do wish she'd taken on some better subject matter than a series of tawdry affairs. Such plots are trite in adult fiction, and she didn't add anything new or satisfying to that framework. Sight Reading is still worth reading for the writing and the music, but it's not one I'll ever be revisiting.

Rating: 3/5

Favorite Quote: 
"'Even the grandest lives come down to a few people and places. Loved ones, your daily work, your neighborhood. I don't mean that in a belittling way. I've been realizing how complete our lives can be with just the few people and activities you most love.'"

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Blogger Amy said...

Not my type of book, but I do like the musical element of it and it seems like the characters relationship with their music is great, but I don't know about the romance aspect of it. Great review!

May 29, 2013 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Dragana M. said...

I love it how you described Daphne Kalotay's style of writing but I hate books about cheating. I agree cheaters do not deserve HEA.
BTW I added 'Russian Winter' to my tbr. :)

May 29, 2013 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger Jenni said...

So she goes to help her ailing parent and he starts banging his student? Wow. Keep it classy sir!

I love that you love the writing so much. Though I did picture you chewing on the book like a dog with a bone, it was pretty funny!

May 30, 2013 at 7:52 AM  
Blogger Audra said...

Ugh, I can't stand books like this -- I know I should accept infidelity is a major part of our culture (if all the surveys are to be believed), but unless one has an open marriage, it bothers me greatly. Especially, as Jenni says, it involves guys steppin' out because their wives are waiting on them!

May 30, 2013 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger Lyn Kaye said...

Cheating? Meh. I cut out any book after reading "The Mermaid Chair". I actually got in a heated argument with a one-time friend about infidelity in books. I'll more than likely skip this one.

May 30, 2013 at 9:43 PM  
Blogger Renae @ Respiring Thoughts said...

No matter how well it's presented, cheating rarely works in a book for me. It doesn't make me uncomfortable so much as make it hard to get into the mindset of the characters and understand their position. I did like Russian Winter, though, so I'd probably like this one as well, maybe.

May 31, 2013 at 1:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for being a part of the tour!

May 31, 2013 at 11:07 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yeah, everything but the romance was great. Unfortunately there was a LOT of focus on the adultery.

June 3, 2013 at 10:09 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yup, cheaters need to be really unhappy, at least for a while. Karma needs to be a thing. Russian Winter was perfection.

June 3, 2013 at 10:13 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yup. That's exactly it. Very classy.

Lol. Rude.

June 3, 2013 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yeah, it's all completely unacceptable to me. One hundred percent not okay. Grrr.

June 3, 2013 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I just feel like if it's in a book, they need to be punished for it in some way. No happy ending for you!

June 3, 2013 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Same. I basically see no reason for it. This one just did not have the magic for me, mostly because I thought they were all awful people. She still writes purty though.

June 3, 2013 at 11:19 AM  
Blogger Shirley said...

The adultery bothered me too, but what bothered me even more was how Remy and Hazel were friendly towards each other afterwards. I just can't believe a woman in Hazel's situation would ever be able to look at Remy and consider her like a friend. I know I wouldn't be able to do it. It's just not realistic, despite it making things "easier" for them and for Jessica.

I just reviewed this novel too.

June 26, 2013 at 7:34 PM  

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