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65 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 1999
Historical art expert Patricia Dolan has never fully recovered from the death of her daughter that subsequently led to her divorce. She throws herself fully into her work at New York's Frick Art Reference Library to forget her inner pain.

Her distant cousin, Michael O'Driscoll comes to New York to obtain her help. Soon, the duo becomes lovers. She leaves America to live in a cottage in a remote part of Ireland. As the long winter sets in, Patricia has only a stolen painting by Vermeer, THE MUSIC LESSON, as company. As she keeps a diary, Patricia soon begins to transform herself, guided by the painting that is her sole companion. She now knows that she must choose between the beauty of art and the mundane pragmatic world of politics where love is not part of the equation.

THE MUSIC LESSON is a clever, but strange psychological thriller that will elate sub-genre fans. The novel is mostly told through Patricia's diary, but that device does not slow down the tale for even a nanosecond. The story line is crisp though readers will question the naive motivations of Patricia even in her numb state. However, what makes this novel a winner is the characters, especially Patricia and the person in the painting. As with OBJECTS IN MIRRORS ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR, Katherine Weber scribes a taut thrilling tale of self awareness.

Harriet Klausner 3/17/99
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2000
What do art historians and radical Irish political groups have in common? In this book, a (fictional) Vermeer painting owned by the Queen of England. Patricia Dolan, bereft Irish-American reference librarian at the Frick, falls hard for her Irish cousin and within weeks finds herself ensconced in a remote cottage in Ireland with one of the objects of her desire--the tiny "kidnapped" Vermeer painting that is being held for ransom. Patricia tells us her story in retrospect in the form of a plain-spoken journal and simultaneously reveals her interconnected, immediate musings on loss, love, art history, philosophy (Walter Benjamin in particular), national identity, politics and geneaology. To her credit, Weber clearly and cleverly conveys her complex tale in this slim and compelling novel that manages to be, like a Vermeer painting, both understated and profound.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2003
In The Music Lesson Katherine Weber does a good job of pulling off a mystery novel bedecked with a love story, or should I say a lust story, with the snob-nosed word "literature" and carries it off brillantly.
As the story opens we meet Patricia Dolan, a 41 year old art historian from America who is currently keeping a low profile in a small cottage on the outskirts of an Irish town of Ballyhoe. Just why she is hiding out becomes readily apparent when we find out that she is in the possession of a stolen Vermeer painting. She is waiting to be contacted by her young cousin, Mickey, who just happens to be her lover. In the meantime, the waiting allows her to think about her past: the death of her daughter and the resulting divorce from her husband, the fierce nationalism of her Irish father, and always the curiosity to see her homeland. She also has to deal with the unknown future she will have to face when Mickey arrives. She is a woman who wonders if she has made the right decisions in her life but knows it's too late to change them even if she made the wrong ones.
I liked this book a lot. It's short and compact but has a lot of muscle pumping through its graceful lines. Weber had to pack a lot into each page to get the combined effects of lost love, nostalgia, regret, nationalism, and history to blend effortlessly into a seamless whole. In the end, this novel is a solitary monologue that haunts you after you read it. It was named a New York Times Notable Book and also a Publishers Weekly Book of the Year.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2001
This slim volume will only occupy an hour or two of your time, but I guarantee that you will be fully engrossed. Others have summarized the plot line well enough -- most of what we read is from Patricia's journal which she keeps while hidden away in a remote part of Ireland. The "drama" is more in the emotion and her recollections of encounters with art than in the art-heist plot. Though we don't get as much information as we want, the ending is satisfying and the novella so well crafted that the worst complaint you may have is that there is not more of it. By the end, you will also have an incredible urge to find a book of Vermeer's paintings and study them up close.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2000
A great find. All thrillers should be written this way: beautiful descriptive writing, all the time drawing you into a web of art and deception. I found the characters real and believable. And I never saw the ending coming. This book is making the rounds among my bookclub friends to rave reviews.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
After reading "Tulip Fever" and "Girl With a Pearl Earring" I was in a Vermeer state of mind. Craving more, I happened upon this little story by Katharine Weber. Not quite what I expected, it nevertheless moves freely after a deliberately murky and introspective opening by narrator art historian, Patricia Dolan. Divorced, Patricia is forever haunted by the death of her only child in an unfortunate school bus accident. Memories of her mother, also deceased, further complicate and plunge her shaky emotions into the subterrean depths of the depressed mind. Enter Mickey, the younger man, a sweet and all-male Irish relation, who charms even Patricia's ex -Boston cop father after reawakening her sexuality with his rough and tumble bedroom savoir faire. Soon Patricia finds herself in Ireland, the sentinel to a tiny priceless Vermeer painting stolen in transit from a museum show back to its owner Queen Elizabeth herself, by Mickey and his band of Irish Republican sympathizers. When Patricia realizes she has been duped, used all along for her art historian's knowledge of the painting and its crating, she must scrounge up all the courage she buried deep within her after the death of her child and her own innocence.

Slow at first as it should be, this tiny novel flounders a little as the voice of Patricia recounts her sadness. Once she establishes her emotional foundation, however, the story picks up a well-appreciated momentum, where the reader feels as if she is moving along with the tide, feeling Patricia's pain firsthand as revelation after revelation clicks into place like the pieces of a sick little jigsaw puzzle. Satisfying ending with delicious descriptions of the fictitious Vermeer and the feelings of beauty, perfection and peace the painter instills within Patricia even after all she has gone through.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 1999
Weber doesn't miss a detail as she weaves us through a journey of fine art, militia, and international intrigue.
Her main characters are are an attractive fortyish museum curator, who after personal tragedies finds she is living in an emotional gray fringe area, until unexpectedly falling in love with a younger, rugged Irishman, who has much deeper roots to the mother land than anyone would ever expect.
Weber teaches us some of the mystery behind fine paintings, and as well, of national and personal oppression. She has a keen sense for looking at one's inner self, and can gracefully script bedroom scenes which are naughty without offending the reader. Even the most avid of mystery lovers will never foretell her rich surprise ending.
This novel is a jewel.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 1999
This masterful telling of a blending of Irish politics, a naive romantic and a breathtaking work of art, all set in an Irish coastal setting that makes you want to get on an Aerlingus flight is one of those slender books that you salute because of all the waste it left out. The pure essenceof what literature hopes to be. Transports you, intrigues you, makes you feel clever and then turns the tables. If you ever wanted to be a writer, this book would be an inspiration and an intimidation. If only more publishers supported books like this!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 1999
Like Brian Moore, this is an author who knows how to combine the literary and the suspenseful. What a little masterpiece this is! Why is it not better known? Reminded me of the best of Muriel Spark. This is an original. More, please.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2000
Why isn't this writer better known? If you love Ann Tyler, Laurie Colwin, Sue Miller, Elinor Lipman, then this is a writer for you! I think this novel is more serious than her first, but both are really, really great! I am so glad my book group read this book!
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