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Grace Notes: A Novel Paperback – November 17, 1998
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Grace Notes, MacLaverty's first novel since Cal, is as much about Irish identity--and possibility--as it is about art. Catherine's newest piece, a mass, includes the huge drums Protestants play in parades. "It was a scary sound--like thunder. Like the town was under a canopy of dark noise." Though her fellow Catholics see the drums as instruments of threat, Catherine is determined to integrate them into her composition.
Her return to Belfast for her father's funeral brings back several ghosts, among them an influential professor who spoke of grace notes--"the notes between the notes." This novel is full of such instances, wry snatches of conversation and unforgettable observations: the new Chinese restaurant that has had to offer chips to stay in business, or the pub that's "on a slight hill. When dogs pissed at the door the dark lines ran diagonally to the gutter." These transcend the occasional passage in which MacLaverty tries too hard to see into the life and rhythms of a female artist. The final section, however, a live radio concert of Catherine's piece, is a triumph for both woman composer and male author. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Second: it may also seem a simple little book, with not much happening. But go to the trouble to read between the lines, and you will get a lot in return. Because grace notes are the unobtrusive notes that seemingly hardly have a function, but that in some subtle and undefinable way make a piece of music into something special. MacLaverty writes in this way. His book has the same effect that a beautiful piece music has: you can't tell exactly why, but you are deeply moved by it.
What does happen in this novel is that Catherine must try to reconcile the Northern-Irish heritage she has tried to leave behind with the motherhood she can hardly cope with and reconcile both with her work. In the end it is the music that makes her whole again. In a beautiful finale we are shown the healing effect of art. Not a book for those who want a page-turner, but warmly recommended for those who like a deeply felt and subtle insight into a woman's soul. It is amazing that it was written by a man.
This novel was ill-starred: if it were published a year later, it could be awarded with the Booker Prize. But in 1997 it had to yield the Prize to A.Roy's wonderful book. 'Grace Notes' is a novel of calculated beauty (even an appearance of Protestant drums in Catherine's composition was anticipated), 'The God of Small Things' is a novel-flash overwhelming its readers with unpredictable gamut of human emotions.
Grace Notes is the superbly-written story of Catherine McKenna's difficult relationship with her parents, her doomed love-affair with the man who is the father of her child, and her efforts to achieve personal and artistic freedom. The novel begins with a funeral, and ends with the realization of the protagonist's musical ambitions in the form of the successful performance and radio broadcast of her own musical composition. In between this gloomy, inauspicious opening and this triumphant finale lies the rich and finely nuanced story of this woman's struggle for independence.
The novel opens with Catherine's return from Scotland, where she now lives, to the family home in a small town in Ulster. Her father has recently died, and the visit brings back many memories of her childhood. The story is told and her feelings are conveyed with sensitivity and precision. She has grown apart from her parents over the years, and they have been out of communication for some time. Indeed, the last time she spoke to her father they quarreled, and he forbade her to come back again. For this reason, the homecoming, and the funeral, are especially difficult for both mother and daughter.
Catherine is a gifted composer, and recently went on a study visit to Kiev to study with a famous European composer.Read more ›
Catherine McKenna is a young girl, an only child struggeling to be free from the bounds the her Northern Irish parents. She has a very special talent for music, and her music teacher from childhood becomes a very special person in her life. She teaches her to read the notes between the notes, the Grace Notes, and this gives special meaning to Catherine's life and music. And also special meaning to the book. The book can be read as words within words, which makes the book full of grace notes.
What fascinates me most with the book is the way Bernard MacLaverty shows us how to read or look at music just like we read or look at paintings. Having read several books about the stories behind Vermeers painting, MacLaverty also uses a Vermeer painting to show music.
I can fully agree with a the reviewer Tobias Hill from The Times: "The strongest impression left by Grace Notes is that of its central image-og the 'notes between the notes' which seem to compose themselves - of a life happening while it's heroine is busy making other plans...If architecture is frozen music, Grace Notes is the literary equivalnt, full of its own powerful rhythm.
Britt Arnhild Lindland
Most Recent Customer Reviews
After reading Cal, I didn't think MacLaverty could come close to that achievement, but Grace Notes was every bit as good.Another tour de force!Published 15 months ago by anne
Catherine is an Irish woman who is musical. Her parents notice her talent when she's young and find her a wonderful teacher. She becomes a pianist and a composer. Read morePublished on June 5, 2010 by Cynthia
Catherine McKenna is a composer and a music teacher. She flies back home to Northern Ireland to attend her father's funeral. Read morePublished on January 31, 2007 by HORAK
This book did something I never encountered before: it allowed me to experience the genesis and creation of a musical composition. Read morePublished on November 8, 2006 by Elizabeth Storm
Grace Notes was gracefully written and an interesting tender story. It was a delightful read and I highly recommend it!Published on May 11, 2001 by Deborah K Root
A very disappointing and ordinary book - I cannot believe that it was nominated for a booker prize. You just cannot try to write about music in these terms - certainly most... Read morePublished on May 7, 2001
Bernard MacLaverty's "Grace Notes" is a truly absorbing piece of work by one of Ireland's most promising modern writers. Read morePublished on January 22, 2000
This is one of the most honest, well observed, multi-layered fictions I've read in a long time. It opens up the mind and heart of the creative artist and gets down the details of... Read morePublished on August 24, 1999