25 April 2017

Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung by Min Kym

Summary from Goodreads:
The spellbinding memoir of a violin virtuoso who loses the instrument that had defined her both on stage and off -- and who discovers, beyond the violin, the music of her own voice

Her first violin was tiny, harsh, factory-made; her first piece was "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star." But from the very beginning, Min Kym knew that music was the element in which she could swim and dive and soar. At seven years old, she was a prodigy, the youngest ever student at the famed Purcell School. At eleven, she won her first international prize; at eighteen, violinist great Ruggiero Ricci called her "the most talented violinist I've ever taught." And at twenty-one, she found "the one," the violin she would play as a soloist: a rare 1696 Stradivarius. Her career took off. She recorded the Brahms concerto and a world tour was planned. Then, in a London cafe, her violin was stolen. She felt as though she had lost her soulmate, and with it her sense of who she was. Overnight she became unable to play or function, stunned into silence.

In this lucid and transfixing memoir, Kym reckons with the space left by her violin's absence. She sees with new eyes her past as a child prodigy, with its isolation and crushing expectations; her combustible relationships with teachers and with a domineering boyfriend; and her navigation of two very different worlds, her traditional Korean family and her music. And in the stark yet clarifying light of her loss, she rediscovers her voice and herself.

Gone is a really interesting memoir about musical talent and identity. Kym is a violinist who is one of the true child prodigies, who conquers the the toughest pieces in the violin literature at an impossibly young age, and whose 1696 Stradivarius violin was stolen at the height of her career. Her memoir looks at not just her career, but the toll it took on her, how much her career and training pushed against her Korean upbringing, and how she succumbed to a bad relationship that may later have led to some really bad decisions.

The writing style is very interesting. It isn't very polished but winds around, almost stream of consciousness at times. She really tries to get at the heart of performing at such a high level so young. Kym also pushes into the period of depression and mourning she went through after her violin was stolen.  A violinist's relationship to the violin as instrument becomes very personal, almost like a child or a partner, which is a much different relationship that one I am familiar with as a pianist.  As a pianist, you can't tote your instrument around and get to make-do with what you find at your venue (if you're super-famous/fancy/loaded, you can rent the piano of your choice as you tour).

You may start reading Gone to see whether Kym gets her violin back, but you'll stay for her journey.

Edited to add: Kym is releasing an album of violin music played on her Strad on July 18, 2017.

Dear FTC: I received a digital galley from the publisher via Edelweiss.

No comments:

Post a Comment