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Grace Notes
by Bernard MacLaverty
paperback 277 pages
published by Vintage 1998
ISBN: 0099778017
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analyticalQ Book Reviews
Note: Background images in December 2002 and January 2003 journal entries are selected from Frances Ku's collection of her original watercolours.

Bon Journal

Grace notes

This is a book about a female composer, who grew up in Northern Ireland and moved to Scotland. The author weaves the present with the past in almost alternating paragraphs. In between is the music that she hears as she composes while living the real life.

As a musician and woman, I can relate to her love of music and its therapeutic ability to free her from her circumstances and emotions. In fact, it's music that pulls her out of the destructive post natal depression and break-up of a failing relationship.

So what are grace notes? These are the tiny notes that embellish another note or chord. In Mozart's sonatas, they are played as if they are regular notes. But elsewhere, they are fast and soft, out of time with the rest of the notes. In the Baroque period, they are famously used for ostentation.

What do grace notes have to do with the book? A reviewer, Tobias Hill of The Times, wrote "The strongest impression left by Grace Notes is that of its central image - of the 'notes between notes' which seem to compose themselves: of a life happening while its heroine is busy making other plans."

A friend had once said to me,"Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." How true! [Apparently John Lennon had said that first.]

It took me awhile to get into the flow of the author's style of writing. There is music everywhere. The composer Catherine McKenna lives and breathes music, without which there is no hope in the dismal circumstances she's in -- burying a father who hadn't seen her for some time and didn't even know she had given birth, a mother who could not forgive her for having a child out of wedlock, a loser of a partner who drank and physically abused her, etc.

In music, there is beauty. With beauty, there is hope.

10 January 2003 Friday

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Anne Ku
writes about her travels, conversations, thoughts, events, music, and anything else that is interesting enough to fill a web page.