Author: Vikram Seth
Details: (c) Vikram Seth 1999; Pub Phoenix 2001; ISBN 0-75380-773-4
Verdict: An equal music is a really polished piece.
Reasons for reading it: I really enjoyed A suitable boy.
How it came into my hands: A charity shop in Dundee.
Everything about An equal music is good. The writing, the evoking of places, the structure, the exploration of deafness, the presentation of music as a force in people's lives. The characterization is absolutely superlative. Even though I found Michael somewhat annoying, he's so well drawn that I cared about him despite his flaws. In some ways aEM seems a little bit like a vehicle for Seth showing off; he is that rare creature, a novelist who is also a poet (not just someone who puts in overwritten prose and corny verse to look profound), and started his career as a travel writer. So aEM is a novel that really plays to his strengths.
The pacing is perhaps a little on the slow side, but it's a lot more compact than A suitable boy. And it's very enjoyable in lots of other ways that don't depend on excitement. It's really emotionally solid, as well as being well crafted. It's definitely a highbrow sort of book; all the detailed analysis of classical music would guarantee that for a start. And it's essentially a boy-meets-girl plot, though very much an orignal take on that. For people who like this kind of book it's a very good example, but it doesn't quite rise out of the lit-fic genre somehow.