15 May 2011

Book Review: The Devil's Music by Jane Rusbridge

Title: The Devil's Music                              
Author: Jane Rusbridge
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 978 1 4088 0101 7
306 pages
Genre: Fiction
Copy provided by the author

The Devil's Music is the first novel by Jane Rusbridge and what a fabulous novel it is! It's a poignant story about family relationships, in particular the strong bond between a mother and her children.It's about love, family secrets, childhood memories and a shocking misunderstanding.

Set in England, the complicated story is told from two different viewpoints alternating between the mother and her son, Andy. The time frame alternates too, with their memories from the 1950s and 1960s - and shifting to Andrew thirty years later but it's all very cleverly woven together.

Andrew returns to The Siding, the seaside place where an incident occurred when he was nine years old, and he was left to mind his youngest sister, Elaine. He is a doting brother, extremely protective of Elaine because he's been told that she is 'not quite all there’.

Andrew is troubled by fragments of memories from his childhood and he is reluctant to face the past. However his sister, Susie, is keen to find their mother who has been missing for years. Their father is dead now and The Siding has been left to their mother.

Where is she and why did she leave her children?

Andy's relationship with his father is a troubled one but Andy and his beloved "Grampy" have a very special bond.  It's a loving relationship demonstrated so well by the charming endearments Grampy calls his grandson, like 'Duck' and 'Treasure'.

Andy learns how to make rope knots (there's a useful glossary in the book) from his grandfather, and he becomes obsessed with tying knots:

Grampy tells me that in ancient times, the art of knot tying was held in great esteem because knots kept treasures safe.

He also tells Andy about a seafaring legend that claims:

Whistling is the Devil's music. It can make a storm come. 

Andrew as an adult is a loner but he is befriended by a woman from next door. The way his relationship with Sarah develops and how it ultimately leads to a dramatic turn of events makes for a very compelling story.

I was struck by the way the author created such strong characters and is able to convey a child's perspective on life (and his vivid imagination) as well as the viewpoint of a troubled adult man. The different perspectives are very clear and also quite believable.

The twist at the end is breathtaking and only then does it become apparent how all the clues about the past have been leading to the unexpected - and satisfying ending.

The writing is incredibly beautiful with lyrical descriptions that create a real sense of the characters and a strong sense of the time and place. All of the characters seem very real indeed.

I follow the author on Twitter, and was fortunate to win a (signed!) copy from Jane Rusbridge. Thank you, Jane! I was hooked after reading the first two pages. It's simply brilliant.

The Devil's Music is a thoughtful, deeply moving story that is sure to captivate you too. It's easy to see why it was nominated for the 2011 International IMPAC Literary Award.

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