Lead Review – a grand tour of RUSSIA and EUROPE at the turn of the 20th Century
- Book: Love is Blind
- Location: Edinburgh, Paris, St Petersburg (Leningrad)
- Author: William Boyd
This is a novel that has it all: terrific writing, wonderful storytelling, just a bit of mystery and transportation to era and place, lovingly described, set at the turn of the 20th Century… Love is Blind bowls along as the story of Brodie Moncur, his trials and tribulations, a life adventurer, unfold.
Brought up in the Scottish Borders, in a huge family with a fire and brimstone preacher for a father, he is picked on by this monster of a man for ritual humiliation and attack. He determines to leave at an early age. Brodie has the gift of music, with an exceptional ear and takes up piano tuning with Channons in Edinburgh, a family business building pianos. Success and capability propel him to help run the Channon store in Paris, where his marketing ideas eventually prove fruitful. Channon pianos are the ideal vehicles for concert pianists as they tour, and Brodie, as tuner, accompanies them on tour keeping the instrument pitch perfect. It is thus that he falls in with John and Malachi Kilbarron, the former the pianist with a sizeable alcohol problem, the latter a manipulator in team Kilbarron. Amongst the party also is Lika, their Russian companion, for whom Brodie falls into a sybaritic thrall for the rest of the story. It is in Russia that he can address his feelings properly…..
Brodie, however, falls foul of the Channon dynasty, through no fault of his own and eventually fares little better with the Kilbarrons.
Consumption (TB) takes its toll on Brodie but recuperative sojourns in The South of France and Biarritz all add to the rich storyline.
The author beautifully transports his reader to life as it was presumably lived at the end of the 19th Century, with wonderful historical detail. In Russia Brodie is introduced to vodka flavoured with all kinds of spices – cinnamon, caraway, clove, anise and as he explores the more rural Dubechnia, his eyes are drawn to the roads paved with thick oak planks (who knew?). Period detail has clearly been well researched. The intricacies of piano tuning, too, are there without being in the least tedious…”repetition action” was discovered and patented in 1821 and means that when a note is struck several times, it will not quite return to its position of rest. This apparently transformed the instrument entirely.
A novel to savour and enjoy.