Review: Sight Reading by Daphne Kalotay

Posted June 4, 2013 by in Book Reviews / 13 Comments

I received this book for free from the publisher / TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Sight Reading by Daphne KalotaySight Reading by Daphne Kalotay
Published by Harper on May 21, 2013
Genres: Fiction
Format: Paperback
Pages: 352
Source: the publisher / TLC Book Tours

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On a Boston street one warm spring day, Hazel and Remy spot each other for the first time in years. Under ordinary circumstances, this meeting might seem insignificant. But Remy, a gifted violinist, is married to the composer Nicholas Elko--once the love of Hazel's life.

It has been twenty years since Remy, then an ambitious conservatory student; Nicholas, a wunderkind struggling with a masterwork he cannot fully realize; and his wife, the beautiful and fragile Hazel, first came together and tipped their collective world on its axis. But as their entwined stories unfold from 1987 to 2007, from Europe to America, from conservatory life to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, each will discover the surprising ways in which the quest to create something real and true--be it a work of art or one's own life--can lead to the most personal of revelations, including the unearthing of secrets we keep, even from ourselves.

(from the back cover)

I grew up in a musical household; my father plays the guitar, my mother loves the drums (though she doesn’t play), and there was always some kind of music playing in our house: jazz, classic rock, funk, some R&B and pop. I have always loved good music, which is probably one of the many reasons why I became a dancer. When I hear good music, I can’t help wanting to get up and dance. I also love the thought of making that music, but I’m a terrible singer (no, really–ask Eric and his bleeding ears) and I found out in high school that I’m not that keen on playing a band instrument. (Well, I’d love to learn to play the guitar, but I’m too much of a wuss to deal with the finger pain at first.) Starting in fifth grade, I played the clarinet. Then in high school I moved on to the bassoon. Although it could be fun at times, I found that I just couldn’t be that serious about it and I didn’t really enjoy it all that much. I think I quit band after tenth or eleventh grade. I found I was happier listening to other people play.

But this book right here made me want to be able to pick up a violin and go to town.

Sight Reading is a wonderful book about friendship, love, family, and making music. Other creative ways of expression are also touched on, but it’s the music that takes center stage (punny!). Remy is a violin player who has come to terms with the fact that she will always be second best, no matter how much she practices. She accepts that. She just loves to make music, and the descriptions of her practicing and playing with the orchestra are beautiful. It made me feel like I was there listening to her and watching her fingers move over the strings of her violin. Kalotay made me wish I had a violin of my own to pick up and play.

Although I particularly love the parts about the music in Sight Reading, the whole book is beautifully written. The story follows Hazel, Nicholas, and Remy, and shows how each of them uses their creative abilities to deal with life and everything life throws at them. Kalotay does a fantastic job writing about love and friendship, and the connections, misunderstandings, and sometimes pain that are a natural part of close relationships. I was duly impressed with the way Hazel, Nicholas, and Remy made their non-traditional family work without giving in to the drama that divorce and sharing a child seem to frequently cause. I love that the three of them use their art as a way of expressing themselves when they feel unable to express themselves with words.

I have been meaning to read another of Daphne Kalotay’s books–Russian Winter–for quite some time, and now I am really looking forward to finding time for it. Kalotay’s writing is just lovely, and I recommend Sight Reading to music lovers and to anyone who likes good literary fiction.

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  • I love the title! Plus it’s an unrequited love story set in Boston so maybe I should check it out. Hmmm…

  • Music lover, check! Lit fic… is hit or miss for me, but I think I’m willing to take a chance on this one.

  • This sounds wonderful and I happen to think Hazel is a very pretty name (I do sometimes read books solely based on character names).

    I am a music lover as well. This one sounds lovely and I’ve always wanted to play the cello. Maybe I should start with the violin. 🙂

  • Hey, we’re on the same book tour! 🙂 I’m set to review this one next week but haven’t read it yet. Sounds great I played the clarinet in middle school but wimped out after, which is too bad because I love music. My husband bought me a mandolin for my 30th birthday but I have yet to do more than pick at it (7 years later).

  • Great review- just got this yesterday. Looking forward to reading it!

  • Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader

    This sounds lovely, I’ll keep my eyes open for it. I did read and enjoy Russian Winter.

  • Your review of Sight Reading is enticing! Marrying into a musical family and having studied piano for 16 years, I can sense that this is a book I must read and soon. Your enjoyment of it is palpable in your overview and comments. Thanks so much for a good tip!

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  • I really like your review, even though I’m not sure this book is for me. But it’s always good to read outside of my usual, so who knows? Maybe I’ll pick it up one day!

  • Pingback: Daphne Kalotay, author of Sight Reading, on tour May/June 2013 | TLC Book Tours()

  • I’m glad that this book reminded you of your love for music!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

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