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The Soloist

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  1,945 ratings  ·  212 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.
Paperback, Vintage Contemporaries, 284 pages
Published February 1995 by Vintage (first published January 1st 1994)
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Fortune Calling by Hunter S. JonesDoktor Faustus by Thomas MannThe Soloist by Mark SalzmanCaptain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de BernièresStradivari's Genius by Toby Faber
String Instruments on the Cover
3rd out of 129 books — 52 voters
The Tin Drum by Günter GrassThe Magic Flute (Die Zauberflote) in Full Score by Wolfgang Amadeus MozartCaptain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de BernièresThe Piano by Jane CampionThe Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning
Musical Instruments
17th out of 130 books — 51 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,908)
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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 After a decade of futile practice, he is asked to tutor another child prodigy; sullen, withdrawn nine-year old wunderkind Kyung-Hee.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
Aug 21, 2008 Michael rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
Tanya Peterson
"...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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Sophia Kunju
A book that can never be forgotten. Filled with passion and interests in music. Music is interpreted in a different way by the author. Salzman expresses music exceptionally well throughout the book. With showing the protagonist as a person who lives for music, loves music, and feels music with her entire soul gives a soulful feeling to the reader. Its a charming and heart warming story that its simplicity speaks volumes about how events in your life you can only prepare and after that we just gi ...more
Mark Salzman is excellent on many levels. This book is excellent on many levels. I'm so glad that I'm back reading the author of Iron and Silk. Here's what Mary wrote: "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 re ...more
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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
Kelly Liu
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
Stephen Gallup
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
Debra Humphrey
Aug 12, 2012 Debra Humphrey rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
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
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
Annemargaret Olsson
I was really looking forward to this book - how could a book with a cello and a cat on the cover to wrong. This book was a nice read, but it seemed to stay on the surface - where I thought it could have looked deeper at the schizophrenia - the issues the main character had due to his childhood - what his thoughts were toward the young boy that was giving so much to his cello. It was an okay book - not sure how much we will have to discuss at book club tonight.
Paul Mullen
Music. Los Angeles. Mental Health. Homelessness. Journalism. Politics. Hope. Frustration.

A well-written account of a journalist's encounter with a homeless ex-prodigy on the streets of Los Angeles. If you're looking for suspense in a story, you won't find it here. It is predictable in all but the exact details. But it can stimulate some terrific conversations about many topics. Find someone else who has read it and strike up a conversation.
Salzman is a gifted writer and I found this book a pleasure to read. I picked it up because I was interested in his development of the cellist's musical story, and although I found the jury case an interesting way to augment and develop, I also found it the least compelling aspect of the entire book--- it felt forced, too artificial, etc., based on my own experiences, while also, in many senses, accurate (e.g. how individuals go about making decisions, the influences on an individual juror which ...more
Tammy Mannarino
This is not the novel that led to the movie with Robert Downey Jr. I think the story is much better. I really enjoy Mark Salzman's writing style. He tells a story with deeper meaning without becoming a professor of philosophy. I hadn't realized until after I finished this novel, how much of it is drawn from his own experiences. Salzman was apparently a bit of a cello prodigy himself!
Wow. I randomly picked this book off the clearance rack at the used bookstore for $2 and it was incredible.

As a music teacher myself, I could easily relate. The author was so adept at describing the insecurities, inadequacies, and impatience of a musician. The book didn't have a really happy ending, per se, but I feel completely fulfilled and satisfied.

A great book.
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
Carolyn Gerk
There are a lot of bad reviews of this book. And a lot of good reviews that sound oddly like bad reviews. I liked it. I enjoyed every step of the way, except, maybe for the parts at the beginning that I found a little slow. Please do not go into this book picturing Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr as the main characters. I found them much more likeable when I managed to stop doing that, despite their faces gracing the cover.
This novel deals more with the epidemic of homelessness in America and th
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
Dennis Fischman
An oddly intriguing book. I read it quickly and now it feels like I'm not done: the characters and scenes keep replaying in my mind like musical motifs. I felt the connection between the two main plot lines long before I could put it into words. Salzman has a gift for telling simple stories that take you deep into questions of meaning, purpose, and spirituality. The only reason I didn't give it five stars is that I wonder if it would stand up to a second reading. I'll test that some day.
Rachel C.
I had mixed feelings about this book. I was decently engaged by the two plot threads - The New Student and The Trial - even though they hardly intersected. The writing was good. My biggest obstacle was the main character and narrator, who I found to be an unbearable neurotic blowhard.
A gentle story of self-discovery as a former child prodigy deals with his inability to continue as a concert cellist, his experience as a teacher to a gifted young cello student, and his experience as a juror in the trial of a man who has killed his buddhist teacher.
Encouraged me to rethink some of my fears of some of areas of LA. I definitely would recommend this one. I loved it when he wrote honestly and like a journalist...I didn't love it when he slipped into novel writing. I know that probably doesn't make much sense, but his story of befriending a homeless musician with mental illness was compelling enough without trying to impress me with flowery words.
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Goodreads Librari...: Wrong edition 3 17 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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