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Review: “The Music Teacher” by Barbara Hall

August 24, 2008

There are plenty of good novels hitting the shelves today. Some are written in the first person, some in the third, and some in all kinds of varying perspectives. What they all seem to share, however, is a focus on the story. Fantastic, harrowing, heartbreaking, suspenseful, incredible…the list goes on and on, but the emphasis remains on the tale itself.

The Music Teacher, a new novel (coming February of 2009) by Barbara Hall, is different. The narrator is a 40-year-old violin teacher named Pearl Swain, and she is the story. The novel isn’t particularly any of those adjectives listed above, and yet it caught me on the first page and never let me go.

Music Teacher

Various things happen to Pearl throughout the story, of course. They aren’t dazzlingly extraordinary or any thing, but as we see Pearl process each conversation, thought, event, we realize that the book is really about her. It’s a glimpse into a short span of one ordinary woman’s life as she struggles to come to terms with her profession, her past, her relationships, her philosophies. It’s honest and insightful in a wry, sometimes witty, always penetrating sort of way. By the end of the book, you feel like you’ve known Pearl all her life.

I’d love to give you the first few paragraphs, because you’d probably be hooked just like I was. But the advanced reader copy I read isn’t the final draft, they say, and since changes could be made before final publication, I’m not supposed to quote from it. So you’ll just have to check it out for yourself. I’ll try to remember to post on here when the book is out so that everyone can run out to the nearest independent bookstore.

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