Saturday, June 30, 2018

Review: School of Velocity

School of Velocity School of Velocity by Eric Beck Rubin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was confused at first, believing this to be a translated novel, but it is only set in the Netherlands. The author is Canadian, from Toronto, so that is why I have it listed under both in my shelves.

I'm always on the hunt for books where music is an important element. Of the two men in this novel, Jan de Vries is a classical pianist, and successful enough to be making a living at it and making records (I got the sense that in the universe of the novel he is someone with acclaim but not upper tier.) Unfortunately he has started to hear music in his head that is distracting him during practice but especially in performances and is a major threat to his livelihood (cross reference Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain and other works by Oliver Sacks, who has studies these kinds of disorders).

The book moves from there into scenes from Jan's childhood, largely having to do with his friend Dirk. What is is that they shared? Was it just friendship? Exploration? Romance? I enjoyed
this interview
with the author where he says
"Everyone has a Dirk. Almost everyone has that best friend. And I don’t know too many that survive into adulthood. I have a Dirk, a friend who left my life, and I never figured out why...."
Intriguing, I think I have one of those too, a friendship that you can try to recover in your adulthood but it can never be what it was. And you may never know all the answers to why everything fell apart.

So they do reconnect as adults and that's the basic plot of the book; I'm leaving out a lot to be discovered in your reading.

As a piano major of old, I knew most of the music referenced, but of course listened to it as I read the novel. That to me was part of the pleasure of it. I think it's a fairly strong debut and I would look forward to another one, but I think I'd prefer the author to write something set in his own country, honestly. The Dutch setting and characters really threw me off (and almost set me off of reading the novel, based on my previous negative experiences with Dutch novels in translation, something about the point of view or sensibility that I just can't connect with.)

Okay, did a little internet research and found that his next novel is historical fiction and partially set in Canada. Hurrah! I also discovered he is a book podcaster, over on Burning Books, so I'm going to have to check that out.

Thanks to the publisher for providing access to this title in Edelweiss. Although it came out in Canada last year and as such may seem like old news, it only came out in the USA on June 26, 2018. Come on Canadian publishers! We want your books faster than this!

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