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The Soloist, Mark Salzman

Quite unlike his other two books, The Soloist is a quiet novel of introspection about ethics, mental health, and music. I would never have bought this book if it had been by another author–in fact, I ordered it sight unseen based solely on my enjoyment of Salzman’s other books. And, having read it, I wonder if I would have picked it up now that I know the subject and style. It’s not that it is uninteresting. Salzman has a wonderfully transparent style that suffers only from a marked tendency to tell rather than show (not constantly, but enough to be irritating). There’s just nothing special about The Soloist. Unless, that is, you go for novels about cello players.

Renne was a child prodigy who lost his gift in his late teens, and now teaches music in Los Angeles. The combination of his thirty-fourth birthday, jury duty, an unexpected student, and a possible love interest arrive at the same time, making for a remarkable frisson in his life. That’s it. A simple tale of one man and the events that changed him. Okay, so it’s nothing earth-shattering. I need a book every now and then to bring me back to the ground. At least Salzman is an engaging writer–I finished this book in two sittings.

[Finished 6 March 1994]


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