Sex and Stravinsky

Barbara Trapido

Sex and Stravinsky

The time is 1995, but everybody is linked by their past. Brilliant Australian Caroline can command everyone except her own ghoulish mother, which means that things aren't easy for Josh and Zoe, her husband and twelve-year-old daughter. Josh has bizarre origins in a South African mining town, but now teaches mime in Bristol. Zoe reads girls' ballet books and longs for ballet lessons; a thing denied her until, on a school French exchange, she meets a runaway boy in a woodland hut. Meanwhile, on the east coast of Africa, Hattie Thomas, Josh's first love, has taken to writing girls' ballet books from the turret of her fabulous house - that's when she can carve out the space between the forceful presence of Herman and her crosspatch daughter Cat who, after some illicit snooping, is secretly planning a make-or-break essay on mask dancers in Mali. Hattie wakes from a dream of Stravinsky's Pulcinella and asks herself about the composer, 'Do his glasses look sexy?' His glasses are just like Josh's glasses from two decades earlier. From far and wide, they are all drawn together; drawn to Jack's place. Or is he Jacques? Or Giacomo? Beautiful, mysterious Jack, the one-time backyard housemaid's child who, having journeyed via Mozambique and Senegal to Milan, is back exactly where he started - only not for long… 4.1 out of 5 based on 8 reviews
Sex and Stravinsky

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre General Fiction
Format Hardback
Pages 320
RRP £18.99
Date of Publication May 2010
ISBN 978-1408802328
Publisher Bloomsbury
 

The time is 1995, but everybody is linked by their past. Brilliant Australian Caroline can command everyone except her own ghoulish mother, which means that things aren't easy for Josh and Zoe, her husband and twelve-year-old daughter. Josh has bizarre origins in a South African mining town, but now teaches mime in Bristol. Zoe reads girls' ballet books and longs for ballet lessons; a thing denied her until, on a school French exchange, she meets a runaway boy in a woodland hut. Meanwhile, on the east coast of Africa, Hattie Thomas, Josh's first love, has taken to writing girls' ballet books from the turret of her fabulous house - that's when she can carve out the space between the forceful presence of Herman and her crosspatch daughter Cat who, after some illicit snooping, is secretly planning a make-or-break essay on mask dancers in Mali. Hattie wakes from a dream of Stravinsky's Pulcinella and asks herself about the composer, 'Do his glasses look sexy?' His glasses are just like Josh's glasses from two decades earlier. From far and wide, they are all drawn together; drawn to Jack's place. Or is he Jacques? Or Giacomo? Beautiful, mysterious Jack, the one-time backyard housemaid's child who, having journeyed via Mozambique and Senegal to Milan, is back exactly where he started - only not for long…

Reviews

The Daily Express

Emma Lee-Potter

In many ways Sex And Stravinsky is a contemporary fairytale that shifts back and forth in time and across continents. Although the whirlwind exchange of partners as the novel races to its conclusion is less than convincing, Trapido’s seventh novel is a dazzling achievement. It’s beautifully-written, deftly-plotted and moves skilfully from domestic drama to global themes and back again.

14/05/2010

Read Full Review


The Sunday Times

Nick Rennison

[A] delightful and brilliantly choreographed comedy… there is little doubt where the elaborate plot is taking us. But Trapido’s skill in orchestrating all the elements is admirable and the journey she takes us on is a thoroughly enjoyable one.

23/05/2010

Read Full Review


The Daily Telegraph

Jane Shilling

Trapido subverts the realist novel’s conventions with elegant assurance, spinning her story of abandoned children, transformations and lost love rediscovered towards a conclusion as sweetly mannered as the early operas that Josh admires for their “perfect balance of cruelty and choreography”. That perfect balance animates this bittersweet novel, with its graceful narrative architecture and careful coincidences. Yet Trapido dashingly unbalances the perfection of her own conceit with almost Mozartian verve

10/05/2010

Read Full Review


The Sunday Telegraph

Louise Levene

The choreographed exchanges between the protagonists and the themes of stolen identity, missed opportunity and triumphant rebirth that run through the novel mimic the commedia dell’arte scenario of Pulcinella, created for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes by Léonide Massine in 1920. Stravinsky’s score for the ballet, based on original music accredited to Pergolesi, was at once an homage and a remix. The same ingenious blend of ancient and modern can be seen in the way that Trapido grafts her schematic, almost Shakespearean, plots on to very modern lives.

16/05/2010

Read Full Review


The Guardian

Helen Dunmore

Trapido's comedy now carries deep undertones of sadness. Ambitions are thwarted, while dreams wither… This is an invigorating novel which combines Trapido's characteristic charm with a growing steeliness of purpose.

29/05/2010

Read Full Review


The Independent

Patrick Gale

In Frankie and Stankie, Trapido revisited her South African heritage and wittily showed her heroine's snail-pace dawning of political consciousness. That novel's many admirers will appreciate this one's abrasive subplot. Josh's liberal activist parents, a brilliant, unworldly couple who think nothing of risking their lives for the anti-apartheid cause, effectively adopt their black maid's illegitimate, pale-skinned, sensitive son, Jack, rescuing him from township squalor. Far from growing up to be as public spirited as they were, he becomes a style-obsessed narcissist, selfish and wary. It's a fascinating character study in a novel where even the monsters are admirable.

07/05/2010

Read Full Review


The Scotsman

Allan Massie

Marrying comic and serious themes is never easy. The bridge between them should be supplied by Caroline, the intellectual domestic goddess and self-sacrificing daughter. But the bridge doesn't quite hold... So the novel is less than at first it promised to be, and, paradoxically, it is less because Trapido has tried to cram too much into it. Yet, equally paradoxically, the operatic, even Shakespearean, patterning of this comedy of errors rarely fails to please.

25/04/2010

Read Full Review


The Financial Times

Susie Boyt

Sex and Stravinsky takes to heart the maxim that a novel must not just tell the story of one life, for there is a huge cast of characters, whose fates intersect and separate and reconnect over decades. It is a roomy, loosely plotted book in which the reader sort of swims and occasionally there is a sense of lack of direction rescued by one too many coincidences, or a feeling that a character’s development has been sacrificed in order to render a bigger world picture.

31/05/2010

Read Full Review


©2013 The Omnivore