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The Soloist

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  2,247 Ratings  ·  251 Reviews
As a child, Renne showed promise of becoming one of the world's greatest cellists. Now, years later, his life suddenly is altered by two events: he becomes a juror in a murder trial for the brutal killing of a Buddhist monk, and he takes on as a pupil a Korean boy whose brilliant musicianship reminds him of his own past.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
Hardcover, 284 pages
Published January 13th 1994 by Random House (first published January 1st 1994)
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Debbie Zapata
Feb 15, 2017 Debbie Zapata rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: douglas
I've been in a musical mood lately. From a piano shop in Paris to a life of Beethoven (which is slow-going and a bit frustrating so far but still...Beethoven!) to Mark Salzman's novel about a child prodigy cellist and what happens to him when he loses the desire to play.

Well, that is not exactly right. When we meet Reinhart Sundheimer he has not 'concertized' for many years, but he still practices daily, trying to recapture the magic of earlier years. But he lost the desire to play, the love for
La Tonya  Jordan
Mar 14, 2016 La Tonya Jordan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to La Tonya by: Palladium Bookies
Shelves: good-read
Renne Sundheimer was a child prodigy. His instrument of choice was the cello. Unfortunately, his gift deserted him at the age of eighteen never to return. He spent his life attempting to rekindle what he had lost until he was selected for jury duty. The trial made him open his eyes to what he had been missing in life and where he truly stood. The book is a slow read and drags in certain parts. But, it is a good story of overcoming a life disappointment and finally move on. Even, if it takes sixt ...more
Aug 24, 2011 MaryAnn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 stars for the beautiful references to music and its impact in our lives. How grateful I am to have music and music performance present in my life.
Oct 24, 2009 Sufferingbruin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A very disappointing effort from Salzman. The plot is enticing: Reinhardt, a child prodigy cellist, loses his gift and spends years trying to get it back so he can live the life of a concert musician. After a decade of futile practice, he is asked to tutor another child prodigy; sullen, withdrawn nine-year old wunderkind Kyung-Hee. And if Salzman had just stayed with that, I think he would have written a fine book. There is the possibility of youth vs. age, the teacher craving the talent the stu ...more
Tanya Peterson
Feb 01, 2013 Tanya Peterson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mental-health
"...I've decided that we all crave a sense of dignity in our lives, but most of us find it an elusive goal." This is one of Reinhart Sundheimer's reflections on life and on himself. The Soloist is an endearing story that tells the tale of a man who hit his prime as a child. A musical prodigy, Reinhart was a world-class cellist from a young age. He was nurtured and encouraged (albeit a bit harshly when it came to his mother) -- and, sadly, isolated. He was kept away from age-mates so that he coul ...more
May 01, 2013 Zach rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was very interesting and loveable at the same time. It's hard not to read the whole book in one sitting. This non-fiction story will keep you wanting more and more. Steve Lopez the author as well as the protagonist in the story does a great job of portraying the connection between Nathaniel and himself, describing the severity of homelessness in Los Angeles, and re creating an inspirational story that actually happened.

As I started to read the book I could see right away that somethin
Aug 20, 2008 Michael rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: musicians, music-lovers, ex-Buddhists
Recommended to Michael by: Scott
Warning: Do not even think about reading this if you are not heavily into classical music/musicians, and the process of of the classical concert

A friend lent me his copy for the book's paradoxical trial of a young man convicted of killing his Zen master. Sunheimer, a cellist since youth, is one of the jury members. The chapters in the jury room are a rehash of "Twelve Angry", as it could be told by Henry Fonda's character's inner monologue. Even a few of the less savory characters are cliches fr
Book Concierge
This is a novel (not to be confused withh the true story that has been made into a movie starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr).
It is an incandescent work about personal growth. Renne is a former musical child prodigy now teaching music at a university - too young to be a retired concert soloist, too old to still be a virgin.
I would have liked to give this book a 3.5 star rating. It wasn't solidly good (which I require for 4 stars), but it wasn't just mediocre, there were a few good passages and it was certainly entertaining enough.

Renne was an interesting narrator; he is removed from society and despite being mid-30s has the voice of a 60-something. He spends lots of time thinking about people and interactions and mourning his inability to create relationships since losing his ability to play, but he also enjoys hi
Jul 26, 2011 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book! A child prodigy cellist loses his ability to perform due to a too perfect ear after he turns 18. He thinks of himself as a failure although he teaches both in college and cellist students. Not only do we learn of his odd upbringing with tutors as well as famous cellists for teachers but also the result being a difficulty relating to others. He is asked to teach another child prodigy, age 9, at about the same time as he is chosen for jury duty for a murder trial in which a psychotic m ...more
Mar 27, 2014 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was well on my way to giving this book five stars. Alas! The ending was not as satisfactory to me as I had hoped it would be. I'm not sure what I was looking for - perhaps a more explosive epiphany like a grand final movement in an impressive symphony? I wasn't let down by any means, I was simply hoping for, well, more.

My ability to identify and understand this character is what brought me such joy in reading this novel. I'm pleased I tried it out.
May 15, 2015 Marcia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was like a piece of classical interesting variety of voices and themes, all intersecting, with a logical, yet not totally final resolution. I loved the sensation of the cello resonating through the narrator's body!
Martha Richey
Nov 11, 2016 Martha Richey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting book to read. The intertwining of a young musician who experiences a profound change in ability to play public concerts, with the story of him teaching another young prodigy 20 years later, as well as a court case regarding a young man who has suddenly killed his Zen meditation leader keeps this a page turner.
Sep 29, 2016 Renee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
well written
Omasan Omatseye
Steve Lopez, a man who worked for the Los Angeles times as a journalist, walked on the streets of Los Angeles one day, he heard a beautiful sound of music from a distance and decided to find out who it is. It was Nathaniel Ayers, a black, homeless American man who finds his happiness through music. Steve wanted to find out more about Nathaniel, so he decides to study his background and write an article about him. It was then he was informed about Nathaniel’s love for the cello. Upon this realiz ...more
Nicole R
Jun 25, 2014 Nicole R rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite
I just finished this book and am having a hard time coming up with words to describe how I feel about it. Steve Lopez is a columnist for the LA Times who stumbles across a homeless man in a tunnel who is playing a two stringed violin. Mr. Lopez begins talking to the man, who obviously has a mental illness, and learns that he previously attended Juliard on a scholarship for the bass. Mr. Lopez leaves the meeting thinking that if this mans story checks out it would be an interesting column....and ...more
Stephen Gallup
Jun 25, 2008 Stephen Gallup rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's not surprising that some of the other reviewers don't like this story's melancholy, brooding narrator. However, the point is that he's wrestling with some big issues, trying to make sense of the unexpected direction his life has taken. I'm a kindred spirit and identified with him very closely.

Salzman seems to have strong feelings about how kids should be educated. It was a subtheme in his memoir Lost in Place , and is more obvious here. We can only speculate whether Renne might have been m
Feb 15, 2014 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I pretty much love everything Salzman has written. Here is why. He uses words well - his prose is clear and strong - and he has a self-deprecating sense of humor and considerable tenderness, particularly toward children and animals. This book wasn't quite as strong as his nonfiction, but I still really enjoyed both reading and rereading it.

It tells three intersecting stories. The first is the life of the title character, a cellist and former child prodigy. The second is his experience as a juror
Nov 20, 2012 Francoise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A delightful easy-to-read tale about a cellist coming to terms with his concert-giving prodigy childhood, his parents, his teacher, his current students, his inability to play the cello anymore or successfully date women. He uncharacteristaically takes on a child prodigy student himself and has to figure out how to relate to the kid and his family. Does this sound like a book built around being on a murder trial jury? Well, that's how the book works. All of the attendant jury experiences -- dige ...more
Jul 28, 2014 Peggy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Susan Bryant
Shelves: music-song
I notice this book gets a very wide range of opinions and appreciation, from one to five stars. One reviewer speaks of starting off with thinking "5" but - quite disappointed - felt obligated to lower her rating. I was the opposite.

Initially I felt very disappointed, perhaps a result of unconsciously comparing it to Salzman's nonfiction work I have read. I almost put the book down without getting into it very far, but thank goodness I didn't.

I can't speak to similarity to "Twelve Angry Men" wi
Kelly Liu
Oct 15, 2010 Kelly Liu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Writing Assignment for the Review of the The Soloist

Life always changes with any of the decisions we made. The main character Renne’s life has been changed three times by his own decisions: asked for changing the instrument; started having the lesson for a Korean boy Kyung-hee Kim as a student; and be involved in a murder trail by one of his students. By these three stories told me that people should be responsible to what they did or response for their decisions; the second one was the life is
Debra Flores
Aug 12, 2012 Debra Flores rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Musicians, people that are not depressed
Recommended to Debra by: Pasadena Public Library
Going through City of Pasadena's One City, One Story book selection. The Soloist was their book selection in 2002. I read this book in 2008. I pushed through The Soloist, by Mark Salzman hoping for an ending that I didn't receive. Salzman's interpretation came a lot from his own experiences as a cellist. The parts on music and what a musician might feel are fine, if a bit whiny and repetitive - there's an awful lot of "poor me" in it that sound too much like the author's own voice (Salzman gave ...more
Lori S.
Renne's problem, other than his inability to play the way he used to, is that he never grew up. He stopped at the age of 18 and froze into his own past. Everyone kept telling him he would keep getting better as he grew older and when that did not happen he just stopped growing (a real world problem with some people [celebrities anyone?] though). What's worse is that when he crashed and burned, his parents did not really do anything to help him get past the end of his career.

The trial was more i
Jun 20, 2010 lew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Melanie Griffin
I was disappointed in this. Either I was missing something, or it did not hang together too well. Parts of it were lovely, parts just hung there not attached to the whole.

It's the story of a cellist, a childhood prodigy who lost his ability to play in public. We meet him when he is in his thirties. But it's also the story of the murder trial of a mentally ill guy who killed a Buddhist monk. The cellist is on the jury. And it's also the story of a doomed affair with a married juror. And also of t
Connor Winter
Feb 21, 2016 Connor Winter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you want the short version, yes, I enjoyed this The Soloist and would recommend it to anyone with a appreciation for classical music.

If you want to know more, read on. Firstly, I know I said I "enjoyed" the book earlier, but on second thought, I don't think enjoy is really the right word. The book was impressive rather than enjoyable. It impressed me because instead of forming emotions as a reader about the events of the book, I found myself living the story as if I was in Reinhart's mind. I
Feb 28, 2013 Ross rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novels interweaves the story of a troubled musician and a dramatic murder trial where he serves as a juror. It is a very readable story that alternates nicely between the two plots. The author plays the cello and that undoubtedly helped inform the plot line about the child prodigy and his difficulties in adulthood. The author clearly knows a lot about the cello and classical music. Unfortunately, he does not know as much about law. I found some of the courtroom scenes to be, well, off-pitch ...more
Jun 03, 2015 Perla rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would have given this book 4 stars or maybe even 5 if Salzman hadn't spent most of the story on Reinhart's experience as a juror. Although I felt he tried to connect what Reinhart learned from that experience to his struggle to overcome his music failures, it felt very hashed and irrelevant. Although I found the court case, and juror process somewhat interesting, that whole plot point could have been written as a different novel.

Instead, Salzman should have developed Reinhart's teaching relati
May 05, 2008 Sue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book. I was drawn to it originally at the thrift store because it had a musical title and a picture of a cello on the cover. The description sounded good, so I picked it up. It turned out to be a quiet book that was immensely touching. It has three strands that are all woven together to form the full picture of a man coming to grips with his past and present and weaving them together to face his future. It is written in first person and vignettes of Renne's past as a child pr ...more
I'd give it 3.5 stars if I could. I liked the writing style and the glimpse into the culture and life of a classical musician was very interesting. On the other hand at the end I thought to myself, "What was the whole point?" If that sounds harsh I didn't mean it to be - I just didn't get what the whole court room story had to do with anything. It was like going out to a bar and knowing your friend's life (good, interesting) and they start telling you about something that happened to them that d ...more
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Screen & Page: The Soloist 1 1 Dec 07, 2016 08:22AM  
What's The Name o...: SOLVED. aging musical prodigy, buddhism, court-case [s] 7 26 Sep 13, 2015 11:43AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Wrong edition 3 18 Jan 10, 2014 02:37PM  
Enjoyable, Musical and One of a kind 1 14 Apr 21, 2009 07:28PM  
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Mark Salzman is an award-winning novelist and nonfiction author who has written on a variety of subjects, from a graceful novel about a Carmelite nun’s ecstatic visions and crisis of faith to a compelling memoir about growing up a misfit in a Connecticut suburb – clearly displaying a range that transcends genre. As a boy, all Salzman ever wanted was to be a Kung Fu master, but it was his proficien ...more
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