Talking Location With … author Simon Carr, Beira Beixa, Portugal
A coup de foudre.. a novel of perfect pitch (set in Kent, Paris, Cremona)
9th January 2019
The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris, novel of perfect pitch set in Kent, Paris and Cremona.
Start 2019 with a startlingly good novel that has shot into my all-time top fifty! It’s the kind of novel that from the outset sets a gripping and thoughtful pace.
Grace has been in a relationship with David for 8 years and she is well aware that he is married. He stays in the marriage to protect the children, and his philandering is not unknown to his wife. Grace and David are biding their time, it surely won’t be long before they can start their own family and live as a proper couple rather than opting for snatched hours in Paris where David has an apartment.
Grace is a real musical talent. She runs a shop in Kent, she is a maker of rather wonderful cellos – which, shortened from the word ‘violoncello’, should grammatically be referred to as ‘cellos (just saying…). They are resonating chambers producing the distinctive voice of the instrument, and no maker has improved on the original design that Stradivari, in particular, would have recognised in 17th Century Cremona. Just think of the resonant performance of Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who played hauntingly at the Royal Wedding in Windsor, Summer 2018 and that is the kind of musical background that will subliminally accompany this novel as one reads it.
With the Cremona International Violin Making Competition (which includes violins, violas and ‘cellos) in mind, Grace is concentrating on the production of a single exceptional instrument, which she intends to enter at the upcoming competition. She soon has the support of her shop assistant Nadia and the inimitable Mr Williams, both of whom are musically talented and whose stories add extra ingredients to the charming narrative.
Things are brought to a head very early in the novel when both are in the Porte de Pantin Métro station (which, if you are familiar with the Parisian Métro system, you will know has musical notes depicted on its tiles) when a woman falls on the track, just as a train is approaching and David lunges in after her, in order to rescue her. It is the aftermath that shakes the relationship to the core. The publicity means his wife is bound to find out about David and there, in the background on the photo, is Grace is hovering expectantly clearly his companion of the evening….
Looking in on a complex relationship drama, one might wonder at the some of Grace’s life choices, but there is no right or wrong, simply a woman of middle age trying to find a path of fulfilment, happiness even…
It weaves a good and convincing path that glides along in its own well crafted and engrossing fashion. I couldn’t put it down .
Cremona, of all the locations, is the one that is particularly full of colour in TripFiction terms, a sumptuous Italian city with a nice smattering of the dolce vita. And now it is a city on my must-visit list!
One to watch in 2019!
Tina for the TripFiction team
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