Summary and book reviews of The Melody by Jim Crace

The Melody

by Jim Crace

The Melody by Jim Crace X
The Melody by Jim Crace
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2018, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2019, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Dean Muscat
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About this Book

Book Summary

A tender new novel about music, celebrity, local intrigue, and lost love - all set by the Mediterranean Sea.

Aside from his trusty piano, Alfred Busi lives alone in his villa overlooking the waves. Famed in his town for his music and songs, he is mourning the recent death of his wife and quietly living out his days, occasionally performing the classics in small venues - never in the stadiums he could fill when in his prime. On the night before receiving his town's highest honor, Busi is wrested from bed by noises in his courtyard and then stunned by an attacking intruder - his hands and neck are scratched, his face is bitten. Busi can't say what it was that he encountered, exactly, but he feels his assailant was neither man nor animal.

The attack sets off a chain of events that will cast a shadow on Busi's career, imperil his home, and alter the fabric of his town. Busi's own account of what happened is embellished to fan the flames of old rumor - of an ancient race of people living in the surrounding forest - and to spark new controversy: something must finally be done about the town's poor, the feral vagabonds at its edges, whose numbers have been growing. All the while Busi, weathering a media storm, must come to terms with his wife's death and decide whether to sing one last time.

In trademark crystalline prose, Jim Crace portrays a man taking stock of his life and looking into an uncertain future, all while bearing witness to a community in the throes of great change - with echoes of today's most pressing social questions.

1

It was not unusual for Alfred Busi—Mister Al—to wake up in the shallows of the night and overhear a cacophony of animals, hunting for food in his and his neighbours' metal rubbish bins or drinking water from the open drain, water that the residents had used to clean their teeth or wash their clothes and dishes. When he was a married man, he tells me, such shadowy disorders were not at all disquieting. He only had to press his nose again into the warm cloth of the woman in his bed and there could be a pair of minotaurs at his bins for all he cared. For thirty years and more, he'd found full comfort with Alicia, with Missus Al, his wife, and wanted little else. But in the loveless, fallow times that came with widowhood and age, he was reduced to sleeping on his own and so he could be troubled by the bins and drains, or at least detained by them from rest. And then he would slip out of bed, go tiptoes on his naked feet to peer out of the high window that looked into...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The Melody has the illusory effect of a siesta in the afternoon sunshine...a hazy quality that invites the reader to fall into its dream-like prose and embrace its ambiguities...continued

Full Review (530 words).

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(Reviewed by Dean Muscat).

Media Reviews

Financial Times (UK)
Jim Crace writes with great flair and inimitable imagination ... The Melody is a lyrical and tender meditation on marital love and loss that further secures his position as one of Britain's most distinctive and accomplished novelists.

The Guardian (UK)
The Melody takes its place among Crace's finest novels ... Both grippingly symbolic and intensely real; it deepens and accrues in rhythmic prose that might itself be the melody of the title.

Daily Mail (UK)
[A] seductively atmospheric novel, suffused as it is with archetypes and the stuff of dreams ... It's an elegy, too - for lost love, youth and talent - and deeply moving.

New Statesman (UK)
Like Kazuo Ishiguro, Crace has a gift for creating specific, vividly imagined worlds which nevertheless exist outside the boundaries of traditional realism ... That 'here' is never defined makes Crace's haunting story more immediate, not less ... Absolutely mesmerizing.

Publishers Weekly
Like the simple but subtle song from which the novel takes its title, the novel's effects linger, coloring the reader's feelings about the thin border between the natural world and human society.

Booklist
Exploring ideas of myth, grief (the depiction of how Al copes with his wife's death is particularly moving), and inequality, Crace's latest is an ethereal novel that ambles and simmers towards a delightful conclusion.

Library Journal
Slim yet at times overextended, this wistful story of memory, family conflict, and human small-mindedness will satisfy literary readers in an autumnal mood.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. With devastating understatement, Crace offers a parable for a time in which empathy has given way to callousness and fear.

The Irish Times
Hypnotic and powerful ... Enchanting and disconcerting ... It offers a substantial rebuff to the idea, frequently remarked upon, that the novel in general, and the English novel in particular, has less and less to offer the modern reader.

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Beyond the Book

The Chanson Musical Tradition

French singer Edith Piaf
Alfred Busi, the protagonist of The Melody, is described by author Jim Crace as being a singer in the European chanson tradition. This lyrically-drive musical form originated in medieval France as the chanson de geste ("song of heroic deeds"), epic poems recounting the glorious tales of famous heroes set to music. The songs employed basic monophonic melodies, meaning the music would consist of a single melody unaccompanied by harmony or chords. Over the next few centuries the chanson form continued to develop to incorporate more complex musical techniques and lyrics that moved away from the epics to the subject of courtly love.

The modern version of the chanson emerged between the 1880s and the end of World War II with the chanson r&#...

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