An Unequal Music


My biggest flaw as a book lover is that there tends to be no grey area when it comes to how I feel about a recent read. It’s either I absolutely love it or I simply don’t.

With ‘An Unequal Music’ by Vikram Seth, I was immediately ascertained of how I’d allocate it, all based on the way I was instantly attached to the book from the very first page.

It even became much clearer when all 380 pages continued to consume me effortlessly. And now that I’ve finished reading, I’m convinced that this book will always be etched in the hem of my most treasured ‘book-reading’ memories.

By the time the genre of music that the book is based on unraveled itself, it was too late for me to uninvest my interest because I was already hooked. Suddenly I was finding poetry in a music genre I’d once believed to be unexciting and distasteful. 

Each page of the book is immersed in a story about a violinist and his troubled relationship with an ex-girlfriend. Michael Holme is an emotionally detached man who isolates himself even from forming personal relationships with the members of the Maggorie Quartet, a group he is an important member in.

It is only with Julia that you are able to witness him transform into a gruesomely clingy and needy lover. It’s kinda amusing to see him suffer at first but it quickly becomes quite disturbingly sad.

Michael’s affection with his violin is one I can understand and easily relate to as a creative.

His attachment comes through the book so strongly, aiding in taking the reader on a journey through all the struggles that cause him so much frustration and turmoil. But the biggest heartbreak of the book is when I read his letters to the woman he’s been in love with for over a decade now. It gets worse towards the middle because that’s where their affair picks up at a turbulent pace. 

I am a greedy reader that wants to gobble up everything all at once so my annoyance got quite intense towards the end, especially when the pages insisted on alternating between Michael’s normal life as a violinist and as Julia’s lover.

I was tempted to just skip the music portions of the book but I knew I’d miss out, instead I opted to be patient and embrace An Unequal Music for its whole story.

The book truly is a gem, it’s written in a special kind of English that you only find in special books that demand to label themselves as easy favorites. Vikram Seth is what I would call a gifted wordsmith, a man who converts something as simple as a language into art. 

One of my most favorite things about the book are the love letters, even though, I think it’s a depressing story with a very grim ending. Maybe if I’d read it before my time of knowing a thing or two about love, I would possibly argue that the ending is unfair but I know better. There never seems to be a formula to this whole love thing. And even though the ending is unfortunate, it is still very believable.

Photo By: Lonwabo Zimela

Have you ever fallen in love with the villain in a story, the person who doesn’t deserve your pity? What made you sympathize with them? 

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