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The attack sets off a chain of events that will cast a shadow on Busi’s career, imperil his home, and alter the fabric of his town. Busi’s own account of what happened is embellished to fan the flames of old rumor—of an ancient race of people living in the surrounding forest—and to spark new controversy: something must finally be done about the town’s poor, the feral vagabonds at its edges, whose numbers have been growing. All the while Busi, weathering a media storm, must come to terms with his wife’s death and decide whether to sing one last time.
In trademark crystalline prose, Jim Crace portrays a man taking stock of his life and looking into an uncertain future, all while bearing witness to a community in the throes of great change—with echoes of today’s most pressing social questions.
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The Melody by Jim Crace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Melody by Jim Crace is a 2018 Picador publication.
I honestly do not remember how this book showed up on my radar. In equal honesty, I must admit I have never read anything by this author. I couldn’t help but notice, however, that he has quite a reputation, being shortlisted for the Booker award. However, just because an author wrote an award winning book is no guarantee I’m going to like their work, because, to be honest, the literary world seems to be on an entirely different plane and I often struggle to understand what they saw in a book that was so compelling.
But, the premise of The Melody sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a try. However, once I began to read the book, I realized I may have misunderstood the synopsis, and was slightly confused by what was going on. However, I was interested enough to keep reading.
The subject matter here is a little depressing. Our main character, Alfred Busi, is an accomplished musician and pianist. He is going through the twilight of his career, and finds himself struggling with widowhood, and the distressing signs and symptoms of aging. However, Alfred is still getting by on his own, until one evening a loud noise awakens him. When he steps out to investigate, he is attacked by a creature, bitten to be specific. He’s not even sure what bit him- believing it might have been a boy- so hungry and feral he attacked in self-preservation.
Unfortunately, Alfred has to deliver a speech and must go out in public with visible wounds, which catches the interest of a journalist, which sets off a series of events, that upends Alfred quiet life.
The story is relayed to us by an ‘unknown’ narrator, which is very effective, especially if it is done right. This is story of humanity- the reprehensible, those people who don’t want to even acknowledge the poor or homeless, wishing to sweep them under the rug, unseen, and then there are good people- supportive friends who gently and steadfastly wrap themselves around Alfred as he grapples with his life now, without his wife, and the inevitable changes he is helpless to prevent, while refusing to forget those who have been chased away from a selfish, heartless society.
This is not the type of book I normally gravitate towards, but I think the story is very unique and thought provoking. Now that I have been introduced to Jim Crace I just might keep my literary cap on and take a closer look at his other work.
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