The spellbinding memoir of a violin virtuoso who loses the instrument that had defined her both on stage and off — and who discovers, beyond the violin, the music of her own voice
Her first violin was tiny, harsh, factory-made; her first piece was -Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star.- But from the very beginning, Min Kym knew that music was the element in which she could swim and dive and soar. At seven years old, she was a prodigy, the youngest ever student at the famed Purcell School. At eleven, she won her first international prize; at eighteen, violinist great Ruggiero Ricci called her -the most talented violinist I’ve ever taught.- And at twenty-one, she found -the one, – the violin she would play as a soloist: a rare 1696 Stradivarius. Her career took off. She recorded the Brahms concerto and a world tour was planned.
Then, in a London cafe, her violin was stolen. She felt as though she had lost her soulmate, and with it her sense of who she was. Overnight she became unable to play or function, stunned into silence.
In this lucid and transfixing memoir, Kym reckons with the space left by her violin’s absence. She sees with new eyes her past as a child prodigy, with its isolation and crushing expectations; her combustible relationships with teachers and with a domineering boyfriend; and her navigation of two very different worlds, her traditional Korean family and her music. And in the stark yet clarifying light of her loss, she rediscovers her voice and herself. (via Goodreads)
This memoir is as musical as it gets, without being too jargon-y for the casual music listener. Min Kym has a beautiful, unique narrative voice – much like that of her one of a kind violin.
I love music. I always have. My dad is a professional music teacher, and I’ve had so many people tell me about how he helped them fall in love with music. To them, I say, believe me, I know, because he taught me to love it like he did.
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I played French Horn through high school, and I desperately miss being in that world but don’t have the money or time to get back into it.
That’s probably why I was inspired to make this playlist, including several pieces performed by the author herself! I hope you’ll check it out!
“Playing isn’t simply the notes, it’s what you bring to it, not simply your ability, but your intelligence, musical, and otherwise.”
This quote is so true, and this book is full of beautiful prose like this, which I really appreciated. You could feel Min’s love for music, for her violin, and for her teachers throughout.
I also loved that Min talked about her experience being so different from many others because of the choices she and her family made to get her to where she is today. I thought her discussion of her South Korean culture’s effect on her musical life was very nuanced, though this is very much not my lane, so I’ll leave it to someone whose lane it is.
I had an issue with part of this, though. Min’s struggle with anorexia literally was the very last two pages in the book, and not mentioned anywhere else in the story. It felt very thrown in and came at me from out of nowhere. I think this could have easily been included in the section about Min growing up.
However, I had some issues with this book – mainly in the way it was organized. It takes a long time to get to the point where Min’s violin is stolen, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it did feel a little bit meandering at times.
I also absolutely hated Matt from the beginning. Dude was creepy as hell.I’m not entirely convinced he didn’t have her violin stolen on purpose, because he and Tarisio’s are really the only ones who profited from the violin’s theft. I have no evidence to back that up, but if this were a mystery novel instead of a memoir, he’d be my prime suspect.
I did love the end of this story, though – Min starting fresh with a new violin that is more suited to her now.
I think this was a four star book for me overall. The organization really bugged me, but the story was a great one in its heart. You can pick up a copy through Amazon, Indiebound or your other favorite bookseller!
Disclaimer: All links to Indiebound and Amazon are affiliate links, which means that if you buy through those links, I will make a small amount of money off of it.