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18 March 2010

Book Review: An Unfinished Score by Elise Blackwell


Title: An Unfinished Score
Author: Elise Blackwell
Publisher: Unbridled Books
Publication Date: April 6, 2010
Hardcover: 272 pages
ISBN: 978-1-936071-66-1
Genre: Fiction

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About the Book:

As she prepares dinner for her husband and their extended family, Suzanne hears on the radio that a jetliner has crashed and her lover is dead. Alex Elling was a renowned orchestra conductor. Suzanne is a concert violist, long unsatisfied with her marriage to a composer whose music turns emotion into thought. Now, more alone than she’s ever been, she must grieve secretly. But as complex as that effort is, it pales with the arrival of Alex’s widow, who blackmails her into completing the score for Alex’s unfinished viola concerto. As Suzanne struggles to keep her double life a secret from her husband, from her best friend, and from the other members of her quartet, she is consumed by memories of a rich love affair saturated with music. Increasingly manipulated by her lover’s widow and tormented by the concerto’s many layers, Suzanne realizes she may lose everything she’s spent her life working for. A story of love, loss, sex, class, and betrayal, this psychologically compelling novel explores the ways that artists’ lives and work interact, the nature of relationships among women as friends and competitors, and what it means to make a life of art.

My Review:

An Unfinished Score
is an exquisitely composed work of fiction, lyrical in tone and quality, a literary ballet, a complex story told through music, while the ending, as with a good concert, will take the reader's breath away. Suzanne Sullivan is leading a double life. She is married to Ben, yet had been seeing a married man, Alex Elling, her orchestra conductor. Suzanne learns of Alex Elling's tragic death while making dinner for her family. Suzanne is unable to outwardly mourn for Alex, cannot even attend his private funeral, yet all the while she must be supportive of her friend Petra and continue to help out with Petra's brilliant and deaf child Adele. A month after Alex's death, Suzanne meets with Olivia, Alex's widower, who has an unusual proposition for Suzanne involving her completing Alex's unfinished viola concerto. As Olivia struggles to finish the posthumous viola concerto, she relives her time with Alex all the while desperately trying to maintain her secret from Ben, Petra and Adele and continue on with her daily routine. Suzanne's character is flawed and her actions questionable, which makes her an all too realistic character. Ben, Petra, Adele, and Olivia are brought to life as imperfect in one fashion or another in this beautifully choreographed narrative, rendering each of them endearing. An Unfinished Score is poetic as well as lyrical as the feelings flow across the pages as notes in a composition. An Unfinished Score is not only a deeply moving, but also an elegant work of fiction. An Unfinished Score would make for an excellent discussion group book and without reservation I highly recommend An Unfinished Score.

About the Author:

Elise Blackwell is the author of three previous novels: Hunger, The Unnatural History of Cypress Parish, and Grub. Her books have been chosen for numerous “best of the year” lists and her short prose has be published in Witness, Topic, Seed, and other publications. Originally from southern Louisiana, she earned her MFA from the University of California-Irvine and is on the creative writing faculty of the University of South Carolina.

I received a complimentary copy ofAn Unfinished Score by Elise Blackwell from Unbridled Books. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.

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4 comments:

The1stdaughter said...

I'm a musician and so this book really appeals to me. Your review is wonderful and I'd love to read more! Thanks so much!

Mary said...

Wow, I love the musical vibe to your review : ) I first noticed the cover several weeks ago and that attracted me. Now your review has me adding it to my list. Thanks!

Farrah from The Book Faery Reviews said...

Ooh! Looks like an interesting read I'll have to find. :-) Thanks for sharing.

Sandra said...

Glad you like this book. I loved Hunger and have this one coming from the library any day now. Thanks for reviewing it.