- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Brindle & Glass Publishing; 1st edition (September 1, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1897142447
- ISBN-13: 978-1897142448
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,759,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Blue Duets Paperback – October 1, 2010
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In Montreal, concert pianist Lila begins to suspect that her difficult, cynical husband, Rob, a history professor, is having an affair with one of his students. He could have picked a better time—Lila is not only thick in the throes of menopause but also taking care of her sick mother, who is in an advanced stage of cancer and living in their home. While she keeps her marital struggles private, Lila’s closest friend, Kevin, a violinist whom she often performs with, offers patient advice, along with his flamboyant boyfriend, Francis, as they observe her struggles. Lila pours herself into rehearsing for her latest concert, one focusing on Bach, and caring for her aging mother as she struggles to face her husband’s infidelity and discover what she wants for herself. This is poet Wall’s first work of fiction, and the narrative is pensive, the plot somewhat slack. An exploration of a broken marriage, this novel presents simple, quiet images that illustrate the way concepts of love and trust operate in long-term relationships. --Julie Hunt
Blue Duets is a riveting read and very highly recommended. --Midwest Book Review Small Press Bookwatch-- (11/15/2010)
Kathleen Wall is interviewed by the University of Regina, and contributes a podcast reading of her novel, Blue Duets.-- (11/22/2010)
Kathleen Wall's Blue Duets was shortlisted for the 2010 Saskatchewan Book Award for Fiction.-- (11/22/2010)
Kathleen Wall's first novel performs with all the good vibrations and moods of a seasoned composer . . . Blue Duets poses sometimes amusing, other times resonant reflections in a framework that is largely tragic, shaded blue, and always beautiful. --Pages and Patches blog-- (06/05/2012)
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Take away the music, and the ingredients of this middle-class, middle-age crisis would be somewhat familiar, in both literature and life. But that is not to say uninteresting or uninvolving. Kathleen Wall is full of gentle surprises, as she veers smoothly away from expected patterns. Rob's occasional soliloquies show while he may not, on this occasion, be an adulterer, his underlying attitude is manipulative and ultimately even more toxic. Two other men take a significant part in Lila's story: there is Kevin, her violin partner, who is gay; and there is Stuart, the cellist, a late arrival whose own emotional needs both intensify their interaction and make it much less predictable. And the background story of the dying mother proves to be a source of strength rather than anxiety. As Lila says: "The challenge is getting her there with her self intact." It is a beautiful way of expressing the goal of terminal care, and Lila succeeds brilliantly, with the help of Stuart's cello and her mother's surprising mental resilience.
All the same, I am not sure that Wall herself succeeds entirely. The chapters written in Rob's voice or Kevin's only take us away from Lila. Stringing the novel on the twin timelines of the mother's dying and the rehearsals for a trio concert leaves the book curiously shapeless after both events have taken place. But the thing that raises these events above the humdrum is the world of music in which they are set. It is clear that Wall knows and loves music. All the same, as a professional musician myself, I think she is better writing as a listener than as a performer; her novel lacks the immediacy of the chamber music world in Vikram Seth's AN EQUAL MUSIC, but then this is an impossible standard to match. But she is good at music as metaphor, and her ending sentences, as Lila tackles Bach's Goldberg Variations, are lovely: "the wordless portraits of moments of being we have no need to describe to others since Bach has done it for us. Some of them are lived; others are merely thought or dreamed. It's hard work to get your hands to express these differences but worth the effort. And to remain, suspended, in that musical effort, is enough."