Buy This Book: An Unfinished Score by Elise Blackwell

I recently subscribed to Unbridled Books (great reads delivered to your doorstep just like fruit of the month club!) My first shipment arrived as I was dashing out the door to the airport last week: Elise Blackwell's An Unfinished Score plus the bonus book I chose, Marc Estrin's nerdtastic The Annotated Nose. I just got around to opening the package today while I was cleaning my office. Several hours later, my office is not clean, my dog is nosing my knee because I'm weeping, and I remember why I love Elise Blackwell's novels. She's an amazing writer, and this is a melodic, intricate, beautifully woven work. It's not for the impatient reader; it's for the reader who's still willing to sink into a book the way you sink into music when you lay on the floor and listen in the dark. You're not skimming ahead, you're letting it all flow to you--the notes, the structure, the adventurism. (I hate it that I read so few books that way these days, and I suspect book critics skim even worse than I do.)

I appreciate classical music, but I don't know much about it, so some of the technical stuff went over my head, but I loved the way the author brought in seemingly tangential this and that about the lives of composers. It was interesting and flowed seamlessly as I read, and as the big picture unfolded, I realized these stories weren't tangential at all. They go straight to the beating heart of the book, which is--for me anyway--an examination of what it means to be an artist. There's so much emotional muscle in the novel, I'm certain it won't speak this theme to everyone. It'll speak about love, loss, anger, regret, how human beings are in concert with each other. Maybe it says something about An Unfinished Score that I'm sitting here blathering about my experience of the book as opposed to telling you about the book itself.

From the flap:
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.
So, yes, buy this book. Then close the door, lie on the floor, and read it.


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