Patricia Dolan defines herself by her job as an art historian and her identity as an Irish American. When she is 41, the combination of the two proves explosive, leading her to a rough cottage in West Cork. In Ireland she has for company only her own words, one elderly neighbor, and "The Music Lesson," a beautiful Vermeer executed on wood. As she anticipates the arrival of Mickey, her distant relative and lover, Patricia slowly, tantalizingly reveals the events that have led to her isolation. Before Mickey had appeared one day outside her office at New York's Frick Museum, she had become inured to loss and death, a high-functioning depressive. But her 25-year-old third cousin once removed reawakens her. Alas, his interest is both personal and
political, and she is soon involved in a plot to kidnap and ransom the Vermeer, property of the Queen. The painting, she tells herself fervently, "is an instrument of magic. Perhaps now it is also an instrument of change, a talisman, the charm that will force powerful people to pay attention and take decisive action at last."
The Music Lesson is far from your everyday, action-packed IRA saga. Instead, Katharine Weber's second novel is very much like the intimate portrait her heroine so lovingly describes--an exquisite miniature in which images, ideas, and deep emotions keep coming out of the woodwork. --Kerry Fried
From Publishers Weekly
After her very promising debut with Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear (1995), Weber offers a complete, but equally delightful, change of pace in this emotionally involving thriller that is propelled by psychological intensity. New York art historian Patricia Dolan is so swept away by the distant Irish cousin, Michael O'Driscoll, who seeks her out for her expertise but quickly becomes her lover, that in no time she is living in a remote cottage on the west coast of Ireland and is part of an IRA-inspired plot to kidnap a Vermeer painting (titled The Music Lesson) from the British royal collection and hold it for ransom. Patricia, alone in a wet winter with no company but the cherished Vermeer, keeps a journal that is the basis of the novel. She is by turns sprightly and funny about her Irish neighbors, reflective on the nature of art and of Vermeer's supreme genius, ecstatic about the sexual awakening Michael has given her and anxious about the odd position in which she finds herself. Is she being watched? Did her old neighbor lady see the picture by accident? Where is Michael? The situation is eventually resolved with brutal suddenness, and though it is difficult to see how else Weber could have ended the book, the final paragraph seems rather facile after all the warm and civilized writing, and the convincing creation of a winsomely offbeat heroine, that precedes it. But Weber remains a writer to be cherished, with the added, and quite rare, virtue of never writing a word too much. Regional author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.