Summary and book reviews of The Music Room by William Fiennes

The Music Room

A Memoir

By William Fiennes

The Music Room
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2009,
    224 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2010,
    224 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Book Summary

A bittersweet description of an ancient family house in an enchanted setting, and of growing up with a damaged brother.

William Fiennes spent his childhood in a moated castle, the perfect environment for a child with a brimming imagination. It is a house alive with history, beauty, and mystery, but the young boy growing up in it is equally in awe of his brother Richard. Eleven years older and a magnetic presence, Richard suffers from severe epilepsy. His illness influences the rhythms of the family and the house’s internal life, and his story inspires a journey, interwoven with a loving recollection, toward an understanding of the mind.

This is a song of home, of an adored brother and the miracle of consciousness. The chill of dark historical places coexists with the warmth and chatter of the family kitchen; the surrounding landscapes are distinguished by ancient trees, secret haunts, the moat’s depths and temptations. Bursting with tender detail, The Music Room is a sensuous tribute to place, memory, and the permanence of love.

ONE

The school assembly hall was closed for renovations and on Sundays we walked to a church for our weekly service. We spread rumours along pews and daydreamed through sermons until one visiting preacher secured our attention by hoisting a bag onto the pulpit rim – a scuffed black leather bag with accordion pleats at each end, a bag a doctor might take on night visits – and unpacking metal stands and clamps we recognized from science labs, and various jars and packages he ranged along the shelf in front of him. He was in his fifties, dressed in a grey suit and a black shirt with a white dog collar, and he didn't say anything while preparing his equipment, tightening a clamp on a retort stand, fixing a cardboard tube between the jaws.

He struck a match; a fuse caught and sizzled; he shook the match out and stepped back to watch the flame. Then we understood that what he'd clamped to the stand was a firework. The tube flared with a soft, ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

The Music Room lacks the gossipy tone prevalent among so many current memoirs; it exposes no family scandal or deep emotional scars, and pushes no political agenda. It is, however, a gentle love-filled memoir which should appeal to many, especially those with an interest in modern castle life!   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

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Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

Interspersed is a precis of the history of research regarding his brother's status epilecticus. An artful memory piece about a unique home life.

Publishers Weekly

The book feels fluffed up at times with asides on the history of epilepsy, but more often than not these serve the greater purpose of evoking a sense of continuity and reflection.

Sunday Times (UK)

Evocative and wistful…glows with the joy of remembrance.

Financial Times

This is a moving book, written with sensitivity. Fiennes writes with great precision and skill; his images stay with you.

The Guardian (UK)

This is no misery memoir...on the contrary, it is a thoughtful and lyrical account of an extraordinary childhood.

New Statesman

Beautifully written…detailed without being overblown, precise without being precious.

The Spectator (UK)

Fiennes has a poet's gift for creating images that are fresh and original...yet so natural as to seem almost inevitable.

The Daily Telegraph (UK)

It is a beautiful and fortifying book, even a great one.

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Beyond the Book

Broughton Castle
The unnamed location of William Fiennes' memoir is Broughton Castle, a medieval manor house near the village of Broughton, two miles southwest of Banbury, in the county of Oxfordshire, England.

The estate is situated at the confluence of three streams, making it an ideal location for a fortified manor house complete with moat. No one is sure when the first building was constructed at the site, but parts of the current structure date to around 1300 CE, when Sir John de Broughton II  began developing it. The property was sold in 1377 to William of Wykeham (Bishop of Winchester; Chancellor of England; founder of both Winchester College and New College, Oxford).

His descendent, Margaret ...

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