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Grace Notes – Bernard MacLaverty



Posted September 1, 2016 by

Grace Notes – Bernard MacLaverty – 1997



Reviewed by: Anna van Gelderen       Date: 30 January 2002

GraceNotesThis book is not what it seems. First: the subject matter is gloomy: composer Catherine McKenna, recovering from a postnatal depression, is returning to violence stricken Northern Ireland for the funeral of her father. Not a glimmer of humour in sight. Seems depressing, but does not leave you depressed. I find that remarkable.

Second: it may also seem a simple little book, with not much happening. But go to the trouble to read between the lines, and you will get a lot in return. Because grace notes are the unobtrusive notes that seemingly hardly have a function, but that in some subtle and undefinable way make a piece of music into something special. MacLaverty writes in this way. His book has the same effect that a beautiful piece music has: you can’t tell exactly why, but you are deeply moved by it.

What does happen in this novel is that Catherine must try to reconcile the Northern-Irish heritage she has tried to leave behind with the motherhood she can hardly cope with and reconcile both with her work. In the end it is the music that makes her whole again. In a beautiful finale we are shown the healing effect of art. Not a book for those who want a page-turner, but warmly recommended for those who like a deeply felt and subtle insight into a woman’s soul. It is amazing that it was written by a man.

ReadLit Team


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