Summary and book reviews of The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

The Lucy Variations

By Sara Zarr

The Lucy Variations
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    Readers' Opinion:

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  • Hardcover: May 2013,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: May 2014,
    336 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Sharry Wright

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About this Book

Book Summary

Lucy Beck-Moreau once had a promising future as a concert pianist. The right people knew her name, her performances were booked months in advance, and her future seemed certain.

That was all before she turned fourteen.

Now, at sixteen, it's over. A death, and a betrayal, led her to walk away. That leaves her talented ten-year-old brother, Gus, to shoulder the full weight of the Beck-Moreau family expectations. Then Gus gets a new piano teacher who is young, kind, and interested in helping Lucy rekindle her love of piano - on her own terms. But when you're used to performing for sold-out audiences and world-famous critics, can you ever learn to play just for yourself?

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr takes readers inside the exclusive world of privileged San Francisco families, top junior music competitions, and intense mentorships. The Lucy Variations is a story of one girl's struggle to reclaim her love of music and herself. It's about finding joy again, even when things don't go according to plan. Because life isn't a performance, and everyone deserves the chance to make a few mistakes along the way.

1.
Try harder, Lucy.

Lucy stared down at Madame Temnikova's face.

Which seemed incredibly gray.

Try.
Harder.
Lucy.


She put her hands over Temnikova's sternum again, and again hesitated.

Stage fright: an opportunity to prove herself or a chance to fail. Which was nothing new for her. It just hadn't been a life or death issue until now.

This isn't a performance. Do something.

But an actual dying person in the living room wasn't the same as a Red Cross dummy in the school gym. Lucy tried not to think about Temnikova's skin under her hands. Or the way, from the looks of things, that skin now encased only a body, no longer a soul.

Except the moment wasn't definite. More like Temnikova was not there and then there and then not there. Mostly not.

Gus, Lucy's ten-year-old brother, started to ask the questions he didn't want to answer. "Is she . . ."

Dead?

Call nine-one-one, Gus," she ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

The title, The Lucy Variations, says much about the story. Musical variations refer to a technique where certain features of a tune, a piece, are altered while others remain the same. In a similar manner, Lucy must find a way to change her expectations and her relationship to music and to her family, while remaining true to herself. The Lucy Variations is a life-affirming novel that uses one girl's unusual journey to speak to the bigger question of "Who am I?"   (Reviewed by Sharry Wright).

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Media Reviews
The New York Times

…an elegant novel…Zarr vividly develops the title character, illuminating Lucy’s teenage insecurities, her close and fractious friendships and the coming-of-age realization that she can pursue her dreams on her own terms.

The Horn Book

…the novel’s strength is Zarr’s unflinching attention to the gray areas on Lucy’s life, where adults are fallible, decisions are reversible, and passions can guide you forward or lead you astray. The result is both a satisfying coming-of-age story and a thoughtful treatise on art, identity, and personal fulfillment.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. The combination of sympathetic main character and unusual social and cultural world makes this satisfying coming-of-age story stand out. Fiction. 12-18.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The pressures Lucy is under feel powerful, immediate, and true - her journey of self-discovery will strike a profound chord with readers. Ages 12–up.

Booklist

Starred Review. [Zarr] really, truly gets inside her characters' minds and shows us what makes them complex human beings - their faults, fears, and hopes...This is a mellifluous novel about rekindling joy - in music, in the everyday, and in the beauty around us.

School Library Journal

Starred Review. This strong coming-of-age story about music, passion, and the search for identity will appeal to longtime fans of Zarr’s work and newcomers alike.

VOYA

This is a wonderfully written story with fully realized characters. Even when they are disagreeable, each comes across as genuine and relatable in an engaging story beautifully told.

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Child Musical Prodigies Past and Present

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart A music prodigy is a child, 12 or under, whose talent is considered on a level and competitive with skilled adult musicians. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is still deemed one of the greatest child music prodigies—born in 1756, he started playing harpsichord at age three. By the age of five he was accomplished at reading and playing music and by age six began performing publically, eventually becoming one of the most famous and prolific composers in history. Other historic well-known music prodigies include George Bizet who started studying at the Paris Conservatory of Music before he was ten; Frederic Chopin who composed "Polonaises in G minor and B flat major 9" at the age of seven; Franz Liszt who performed his first major concert at ...

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