I’m really stingy about giving out five stars these days, in fact, it’s why I started my re-read project back in 2013. The idea was to go back and see...moreI’m really stingy about giving out five stars these days, in fact, it’s why I started my re-read project back in 2013. The idea was to go back and see if I’d given books five stars because they actually deserved it, or because I’d been swayed by an emotional response or another reviewer’s opinion. Needless to say, I’ve been cleaning house– not because these books weren’t good, but because they no longer meet the standards I have ascribed to a five star rating. There are really only two: 1) Do I really see myself wanting to read this again? and 2) Would I be inclined to mention this book to anyone curious about which books I consider favorites?
In the case of Strange, Sweet Song by Adi Rule– it is a resounding yes for both, in fact, I’d already like to read it again. You can click the hyperlink there for the Goodreads blurb, or you can just take my word that it’s a book that sort of defies summation or explanation. I tried to pitch the story to a friend a couple of days ago, and all I could come up with was “Well…the main girl is a vocalist at a prestigious music school, there’s a mystery in the woods, a touch of romance, and…that’s really the best i can do.” The thing is, there is so much more to each of these aspects, and I fear saying too much will spoil the magic, but too little will not compel anyone to read.
And so I will try very, very hard to explain not necessarily what this book is about, but why I loved it so entirely.
This is Rule’s debut novel, and when I looked her up I was not at all surprised to discover that she was a student of music herself. Her love for music flows out onto the page from early on, most often when describing her lead character, Sing (yes, Sing, we will get to that name later).
Sure, various starched, soap-smelling women bustled around, but it was music that raised her, folding around her like a blanket– fuzzy or spiky or cold or sweet and warm. It sparked her, calmed her, made her want to get off the velvety floor and look out the window. Sing da Navelli is more music than words, inside.
Even for a person like me, who is impressed enough by the musical stylings of Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus, these words hold weight; they paint a picture of the essence of Sing in my mind, which is far more important than having a picture of her physical self. Love her or hate her (and at times it’s easy to do both), Sing come alive in this novel. Through her attachment to singing(because, really, it is more than love that emanates from her, she is practically made of music), through the heaviness of carrying her parent’s famous names on her back (and in her voice), and through the struggle which becomes the heart of the book– discovering who she truly is, Sing is no longer a character, she is a person who lives and breathes as I do– and you can ask no more from a writer than that.
And now, as for the name:
Her parents could have named her Aria, or Harmonia, or Tessitura, or a hundred other clever names that would have alluded to her ancestry. But they weren’t for her, these names that roll or sparkle or play or simply proclaim, I am normal! No, it was Sing. A name and a command.
It’s up to you whether or not that is reason enough for the character to wear this name…I was unsure at first, but I came to accept it. I mean, famous, eccentric people aren’t exactly known for naming their kids Bob or Sue (actually does anyone name their kids Bob or Sue anymore? Maybe it’s time for the old standards to make a hipster comeback).
Okay, so far it probably seems like this is just a novel about a musician at a music school, to which you are probably thinking BORING (unless that’s your thing…it’s not mine), but the story is actually a rather fantastical one (remember?? I did say there was a mystery in the woods). The overarching musical themes are complemented by a Gothic tone, established by a mythological wish-granting cat (I know, awesome, right?) called the Felix and a seemingly ageless apprentice named Nathan Daysmoor (or Apprentice Playspoor, to his students).
And just in case you haven’t guessed (because remember?? I did say there was a touch of romance), said mysterious, ageless man is the hunky (but actually sort of scrawny) romantic lead. A few notes on the romance: it may be a bit Twilighty for some people’s taste. Daysmoor is like a hundred years old and soooo, soooo tortured. But holy heck, he wears tortured well and he got me all shaky and floaty feeling at times. Am I too old to respectfully admit that?
–she knows he is still there, watching. And somehow, a tiny bit of her insides, always shivering, always shivering, is quieted, and she knows it will never tremble again.
I learned some very telling lessons about musical theater from this book. Most often, it is either the person who loses themselves in the drama of a production, or the person who loses themselves in the technical mastery of it who succeeds. But for a person to be considered truly, truly great– they must find themselves in it. And that is Sing’s journey– trying to find and project who she is among the singer, the diva, the coward, and the daughter of her parents’.
I would not recommend this book to just anyone. As the title implies, it is both strange and sweet, and I know many people who are put off by strange. The writing style is often very formal (which to me, serves the Gothic aspects), and the use of third person, present tense could be jarring. But I truly loved it, and I hope other people will as well (if only so I have someone to discuss it with).
Thanks for reading and check out more blogs on YA fiction from me and my pals at justahunchbookblog.com(less)
Best bible I have ever had. I love the inspirational quotes that litter the pages, as well as the all of the illustrations. Definitely an easy to read...moreBest bible I have ever had. I love the inspirational quotes that litter the pages, as well as the all of the illustrations. Definitely an easy to read translation. (less)
I'm going to write this review before I've really allowed myself time to escape the e...more***2013 Re-read: This book is still magic***
2011 Original Review:
I'm going to write this review before I've really allowed myself time to escape the emotional whirlwind it got me all wrapped up in.
I cannot remember the last time I wept like this over a book. It's certainly happened-- HP 4,5, 6, & 7...Flowers for Algernon...Mockingjay. Yes, maybe that was it. But even while reading Mockingjay in the library at school I was held beneath the social ideal that states you cannot weep freely in public, so I restrained from really letting loose.
Not so with Saving Francesca. I have had the apartment to myself for the past few hours and I took that time to finish it on my own. And I took advantage of being alone by crying loudly and dramatically. I'm sure it was revolting.
This book is beautiful. I certainly teared up through On the Jellicoe Road, but this was different. This was personal. No-- to go even more intimate than that, this was mine.
Every one of Francesca's moments brought some painfully beautiful clarity to a memory of my own. Memories of lying in bed with my mother, sharing any and all sadness with her and being hit by the same aching certainty Francesca has, that "When I grow up, I'm going to be my mother."
Memories of old friends that never were and new friends that always will be. Meeting Abbie and Rex and Emily and Tia and Bethany all in the same year and knowing that they were the forever kind.
Memories of my dad and the movie-father exit he gave us, that Francesca so feared. And how I'll never have what Francesca had with her dad, but my kids will. Because my husband is Robert Spinelli. Annoyingly optimistic and even more annoyingly in love with me.
Memories of my siblings and the bonds we've forged over our shared griefs. Of studying them and hurting for them and willing things to be different...for them.
I loved this book. I loved everything about it. I'm sorry there's not much of a synopsis here, but I assure you- you don't need it. Because this novel isn't driven by its plot. It's driven by some kind of majestic beauty that Melina Marchetta has mastered. Thank you ma'am, and please excuse me while I go read everything else you have to offer. (less)
This one tackles the tough questions and there is a certain profundity in it.
Pomelo's pondering of adulthood particularly got me. "He wonders whether...moreThis one tackles the tough questions and there is a certain profundity in it.
Pomelo's pondering of adulthood particularly got me. "He wonders whether he will be allowed to do whatever he wants when he is completely grown up. And will he still have to do the things that he doesn't want to do at all?"
Sorry, Pomelo-- growing up means ONLY doing the things you don't want to do. (less)
Who can say why certain books resonate with us the way they do? All I know is that Under the Light, much like A Certain Slant of Light made me cry ove...moreWho can say why certain books resonate with us the way they do? All I know is that Under the Light, much like A Certain Slant of Light made me cry over its beauty and not over some kind of ploy on its part.(less)