An Equal Music
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An Equal Music

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  5,459 ratings  ·  445 reviews
The author of the international bestseller A Suitable Boy returns with a powerful and deeply romantic tale of two gifted musicians.Michael Holme is a violinist, a member of the successful Maggiore Quartet.He has long been haunted, though, by memories of the pianist he loved and left ten years earlier, Julia McNicholl.Now Julia, married and the mother of a small child, unex...more
Paperback, 383 pages
Published May 2nd 2000 by Vintage (first published 1999)
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54th out of 510 books — 1,477 voters
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4th out of 82 books — 44 voters

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I have never gone as low and as fast in my opinion of a book as with 'An Equal Music'. After the first 25 pages, I felt that I'd stumbled on to something incredible (no doubt helped by the very simple writing, which was a refreshing change from Salman Rushdie's tediousness); but after a 100 pages it became clear that it was incredible, just the wrong type - incredibly bad.

The story is about a violinist who is reunited with his lost love after 10 years. She has re-married and has a child, yet see...more
The smell of rosin on a bow, the satisfaction of slow scales played with a partner, the sleepy somnolence of working a piece through in your head just before sleep - I miss these things. I forget them too. Vikram Seth lent them back to me this week.

I’ve read An Equal Music before, quickly. This read, with bed rest time to spin through, I read it page by page, at half tempo. It was delicious. Seth recreates the world of a violinist in a string quartet, bringing in the human element of chamber mu...more
Rachel Stern
Jul 08, 2007 Rachel Stern added it
Recommends it for: Anyone
Shelves: justread
I was surprised by how much i loved this book. It's blow off your travelling companions and curl up in your youth hostel until you finish it good. It's finish it and then wish you hadn't so you could read it again for the first time good. The tension in the love story is addictive. But what I loved most was the way Seth writes about music. the way he integrates music into the lives of the characters (all professional musicians) is more than convincing, it's intoxicating.
I was disappointed in this book. I was looking forward to a novel that had lots of musical detail in it, and it definitely succeeded there, and the writing about playing was excellent. But the prose surrounding the main plot of the novel was extremely self-conscious, overwrought and annoying. I didn't find much to like in the main character (beyond his talents as a musician, which came across) and couldn't seen any reason for this great love that existed between him and Julia.
Sarah Milne
There are things I loved about this book and things I did not love, but the bottom line is that after finishing it I sat for 15 minutes and just pondered it. That's good. I have read a few reviews stating a disdain for the narrator - he's whinny, he's selfish, he's annoying. Yes, those things are true enough. But I like that Seth didn't make a heroic main character. The fact is that a person going through a failed love affair generally tends to be those things. Argue with that all you wish! I fe...more
Jul 04, 2013 Page99 rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with an ear for music and a heart for romance
Shelves: recommended
The book is about music, love and struggle. It’s not a typically happy book – because it shows you a lot of happiness and then takes it away. I’ve come to believe that it’s a soulful book.

Michael Holmes is a violinist. He plays for the Maggiore Quartet. He’s in love with Julia McNicholl. Julia is a very gifted pianist. Julia and Michael go their separate ways and before they meet again, Julia would have married and have had a child. They meet. Love and music is in the air. And then it isn’t. Not...more
Nov 23, 2009 C. rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to C. by: wom
I read almost half of this book yesterday, and was left somewhat perplexed. There was some nice writing about music, but apart from that - nothing. I mean, there was a plot and characters and so on, but so banal! So mundane! Well, ok, so maybe it wasn't completely banal and mundane - love and so on, of course. Deafness. Children and marriage in the wrong places for our brave protagonist. But it was slightly dramatic in such a conventional way! Why?

A good author should be able to make the slightl...more
This is a beautiful love story and it is a musical tale. The importance of music cannot be emphasized too strongly for, from the title page to the last paragraph music permeates each character. The protagonist, Michael Holme has a spiritual connection with music and with the instrument, a Tononi violin, that he uses to express his music. This goes beyond playing a piece of music, whether Schubert or Bach or Beethoven, and enters his soul and through the prose of Vikram Seth enters the soul of th...more
Arun Divakar
I would like you to imagine a beautifully carved vessel. By a vessel, I do not mean the seafaring kind but one that can hold something in it. Your vessel is an object of craftsmanship. When you glance at it, you see the evidence of all that is great about hand carved elegance. Walking around the vessel you come across the world's finest carvings built into it. Examples abound ranging from Victorian to Chinese, Indian to Italian. You can't take your eyes off it but still something nags at the bac...more
Dive into the heart and mind of a obsessive, melancoly, melodramatic violinist who can't let go of the love of his life, a person who he had ditched out on. But seriously, this is a beautifully written book about love and music and loving music. I am not a professional musician, I played piano when I was young, but not that well, and to the reviews I've seen that found classical music oriented parts of the book to difficult or too obscure or too distracting, so as to be suitable only for those w...more
Joseph Christoff
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book appealed to the writer, the artist, the poet in me.
This book reads like poetry.
Each sentence, phrase, group of words, a symphony, a melodic soliloquy of language speaking fervently and in depth to the heart, mind, body, soul, bone, marrow, blood.
I read, rather sang this book from page to page.
Finding myself enveloped, enraptured within the music of each verse.
Intoxicated, melding myself comfortably between cover and cover.
Eyes closed, mind open.
Entranced, I became one with Micha...more
Raja Ram
A love story. A very vivid portrayal of losing the love of your life. Why Michael left Julia in Vienna wasn't really explained to my satisfaction. Not believable considering how much he loved her.

Beautifully written as always but too much detailed reference about the mechanism of constructing music much of which was lost on me. I did appreciate the emotional significance of music on the main characters.

Overall a 3!
As a chamber music enthusiast, I was thrilled to find a novel that addressed the personality dynamics of a chamber group, specifically a string quartet. I never attend a concert of such a group without wondering what the personal relationships are. Does it travel together? Stay in the same place? Socialize while on a tour? Or do the individual members eschew contact until rehearsal/performance time? Who's jealous; who's the real leader; what kind of resentments are emerging when selections of mu...more
Aban (Aby)
This is my second reading of this book and I think I enjoyed it as much as the initial reading. The book revolves around the loves of an English violinist, Michael Holme: his love of music, the string quartet of which he is a member,the old and rare violin on loan to him, and his passion for Julia, a gifted and beautiful pianist whom he'd known when they were studying a decade ago in Vienna. The novel traces Michael's feelings and turmoil, both over Julia and over his music.

The author, Vikram S...more
Brief Synopsis:

So I'll be writing a very brief synopsis on this one. Very brief. Seeing as there is very little tangible or evident plot to speak of in relation to this book of utter rubbish anyways which lead to me giving up on it. Absolute rubbish...

Anyway, it revolves around a violinist player who is obsessed with his violin and music playing in general, and briefly hints at a previous unresolved romance with a fellow musician which didn't work out for whatever reason. Cue the violins....pun...more
Graham Crawford
What an intricate and delicate study of the connections between a group of people! I don't know why I didn't read this years ago! One of the advantages of coming to this book late is that now, via the wonders of the internet, it is easy to track down recordings and scores of all the music mentioned in this book - I was able to listen to all the pieces as I read about them on the page - a truly sublime multi-media experience, though not one for the faint-hearted as I often found myself getting to...more
Moses Kilolo
I tend to have memories of times during which I read certain books. The best of these belong to the time I spend reading A suitable boy by Vikram Seth. It was immediately followed by Catcher in the Rye and Cervantes' Don Quixote. This period was probably the time I learned to surrender myself to a book. And in reading another work by Vikram Seth, I had my expectations set.

I cannot say I was disappointed, neither can I say I was overly elated. There is a way in which Seth seems to be teaching, a...more
Mahendra Palsule
Mar 23, 2012 Mahendra Palsule rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Mahendra by: Amit
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
When I first met Vikram Seth and later heard him speak at the Hay Festival in Trivandrum two years ago, I knew I would appreciate his written word as much as I was enthralled by the spoken ones. Having randomly chosen to read his work, ‘An Equal Music’, from the rest of the more famous lot, I find myself not just appreciative, but moved beyond words at the sheer beauty of the finely crafted story of music, love and loss.

Set mainly in London and Vienna, among the musical legacy of Mozart, Schuber...more
Vikram Seth’s An Equal Music is moving, rich with lovely language and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

The novel follows a violinist, Michael, who ran away from the love of his life only to regret it ever since. A chance sighting brings him to her and their love and passion comes alive again. I don’t want to say too much because if you haven’t read it, I would urge you to do so. I will say, though, that as a hopeless romantic, I surprised myself that the story that moved my most and that gave me...more
This book marked not only my passage into Vikram Seth's novels, but also my adventure into classical music. The classical references (going beyond music) are subtle but very well-researched.

Overall, 'An Equal Music' was beautiful, and interesting, gripping - it did not take me long to finish it, though the book left me thinking over it for a long time. It depicts the life of Michael (and particularly, his run-in with Julia, a fellow musician he met in Vienna and fell in love with) through 'snap...more
By contrast with the overly-long mega-epic A Suitable Boy, An Equal Music is the equivalent of a Prelude in comparison to a Concert - just long enough to tell the story, not hindered by multiple side-plots and non-essential characters, and not trying to be big and sweeping. It's a romantic, nostalgic, bitter little tale of lost love, missed chances, and what might have beens, as two musicians once deeply in love stumble across one another's path again years later, only to find that things have c...more
An Equal Music is the third novel by Indian author Vikram Seth. Michael Holme is a 37-year-old violinist who plays in the Maggiore Quartet. Ten years earlier, he left Venice and his first (and only) love, Julia McNicholl, without explanation, when he found himself unable to cope with his musical mentor’s criticism. Now living in London, he encounters Julia by chance, and tries to re-establish contact. Learning, eventually, that she is now a wife and mother in no way dampens his determination to...more
Me thinks one needs to be a professional musician to appreciate this book to the fullest.

The review says this is a story about the love of a woman lost and found and lost again. I found it to be an obsessive and maybe a bit sick kind of love that suffocates and strangles its intended. It is also about 2 musicians and the life of professional performers, one a violinist and the other a pianist.

I gave it 2 stars because it was o.k. I thought the main character, the violinist, to be annoying in hi...more
Main character Michael Holme is a young virtuoso violinist in a renowned string quartet. Which is at times a quintet, if you want to get technical about the music, as this book does to our great fascination. This is how a musician thinks about his art. In arduous and painstaking detail.

Michael lives the lonely single life in present-day London, and fellow musician Julia McNicholl floats in an out of his professional and private lives. He's obsessed by and with her, for a variety of reasons, but...more
I know the loss. I remember the intensity of the dreams. I want to love again, and "An Equal Music" made that longing palpable. This is a book of song. It's not a novel. It's not a story. It's a Symphony of dream after dream, memory after memory, heartache upon heartache. I never thought I could love music more, but Mr. Seth has shown me I never knew her. Incredibly, a return to the Segovia catalog as I was finishing this combined to reintroduce me to my passion again. My fingers are ready to le...more
Heyrebekah Alm
Ostensibly, this is a love story between two people who loved and lost and then find each other again years later. But really it is a love story about music. The most moving relationship is not between Michael and Julia, but between Michael and his violin. Reading it made me want to put the book down and listen to music instead.

I can imagine other writers bogging down the reader with pages of exposition and explanation of the various musical terms. Seth knows his chamber music inside and out and...more
I thought the bones of the story were solid, and the images of music provoking. However, all my positive feelings for this book were swallowed up by how much I disliked the character of Michael. He spent the whole book whinging and complaining about how much he missed Julia and wallowing in a pool of self-pity. I found him selfish, arrogant and pathetic, so much so he ruined the book for me. I did not find his pursuit of Julia romantic, but felt for the poor woman and begged Michael to leave her...more
Spike Gomes
A violinist in a string quartet meets up again with his first love by chance; finding her married with a child, they engage in a brief doomed affair, tinged by loss, not only of love, but of sound.

This book, while not as great as "A Suitable Boy" was still engrossing and enchanting, particularly the passages dealing with the playing of music; the only other novel I've ever read which gets that feeling right was Hesse's "The Glass Bead Game", namely the feeling of frustration, tension and false s...more
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Vikram Seth is an Indian poet, novelist, travel writer, librettist, children's writer, biographer and memoirist.

During the course of his doctorate studies at Stanford, he did his field work in China and translated Hindi and Chinese poetry into English. He returned to Delhi via Xinjiang and Tibet which led to a travel narrative From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet (1983) which won...more
More about Vikram Seth...
A Suitable Boy (A Suitable Boy, #1) The Golden Gate Two Lives From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet Beastly Tales from Here and There

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“Is it not love that knows how to make smooth things rough and rough things smooth?” 35 likes
“What is the difference between my life and my love? One gets me low, the other lets me go.” 32 likes
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