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Sight Reading

3.32  ·  Rating details ·  890 ratings  ·  169 reviews
The critically acclaimed author of Russian Winter turns her "sure and suspenseful artistry" (Boston Globe) to the lives of three colleagues and lovers in the world of classical music in this elegant, beautifully composed novel.

On a Boston street one warm spring day after a long New England winter, Hazel and Remy spot each other for the first time in years. Under ordinary
Hardcover, 329 pages
Published May 21st 2013 by Harper (first published 2013)
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Average rating 3.32  · 
Rating details
 ·  890 ratings  ·  169 reviews

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Deanna McFadden
Feb 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I had a moment of panic over the weekend where I tried to get caught up on a bunch of work reading before a big presentation, and to my delight, found myself embedded in Sight Reading by Daphne Kalotay when I probably should have been doing something motherly, like, well, taking my child outside.

Here’s the opening: a middle-aged woman gets her toes done, steps outside in paper plate-improvised flip-flops and runs, spectacularly, into the woman who stole her husband. Yes, many years of passed.
May 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Although I particularly love the parts about the music in Sight Reading, the whole book is beautifully written. The story follows Hazel, Nicholas, and Remy, and shows how each of them uses their creative abilities to deal with life and everything life throws at them. Kalotay does a fantastic job writing about love and friendship, and the connections, misunderstandings, and sometimes pain that are a natural part of close relationships. I was duly impressed with the way Hazel, Nicholas, and Remy ...more
Robert Blumenthal
Jun 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Having become totally enamored with Daphne Kalotay (uh, as a writer, that is) after reading her wonderful novel Russian Winter, I was pleased to see that her second novel, Sight Reading, was equally as enchanting as the first one was. It covers 20 years in the lives of several characters, the 3 principle ones being a well-respected composer, his lovely wife Havel, and the violin student that he leaves his wife for. The married couple are in their early 30s, and the violin student is in her early ...more
Gabriellaa Stark
Mar 29, 2016 rated it did not like it
The characters were mainly why I hated this book. They were the most unlikable characters I have ever read about. They were horribly judgmental about everything and thought they were perfect.

Also, I don't think almost every human sleeps around and doesn't respect their marriage. All in all, the characters and the events were all not very believable.
Olga Godim
Jun 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mainstream
I received the galley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It is a part of the TLC book tour.

Despite being a bit slow and somewhat ponderous, this novel was among the most powerful I’ve read recently. Its prose is eloquent and luminous; its descriptions lyrical, emphasized by the symbolism on both visual and musical planes. The only flaw I can pinpoint is too much musical vernacular, which is basically incomprehensible to anyone but a musician, although I must admit: there is a
Ricki Treleaven
May 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Disclosure: I received a copy of Sight Reading from Harper, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers. My opinion and thoughts about the book are my own, and I was not paid to write this post.

This week I read Sight Reading by Daphne Kalotay. I've been looking forward to its release because I loved her first novel Russian Winter. You may read my post about Russian Winter on my blog. Sight Reading is a lyrical story of family, betrayal, and yearning set in the world of a classical music
Feb 06, 2014 rated it liked it
“Sight Reading” is basically a relationship story, but what I loved were the gorgeous descriptions of classical music.

I love classical music, but my appreciation is of the product, not the process. I was delighted to be introduced to the process through a performer, a conductor, and a composer. Admittedly much of what was described was beyond my comprehension, but I gained in knowledge of the artistic and personal challenges faced by these professionals, as they brought heart and soul to a
Apr 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
I met Daphne Kalotay when she was a visiting writer at Lynchburg College and she read a short story from her collection Calamity and Other Stories. I thought that her Russian Winter was a wonderful look at what it means to be a ballet dancer - not just beautiful costumes and grace, but work, work, work and pain. I correctly assumed that Sight Reading would go deeply into what it means to be a musician. The story follows Hazel, Nicholas, and Remy through several years of their lives. Remy is a ...more
Jessica Woodbury
Apr 22, 2013 rated it liked it
At first I wasn't sure whether to keep reading this book or not. But every time I'd think I'd leave it there would be a passage about music that just rang so true that I had to keep going.

Ultimately, though, I felt that the book was more a collection of beautiful moments or paragraphs and not as much a cohesive whole. The characters as well had moments of utter vividness but often were shadows of characters. And just when you think you've finally got a handle on someone (bitter Hazel or
Rachel Pollock
Sep 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Hmm. I have a lot of feelings about this book, in that I read it avidly, but i won't say that i loved the reading of it.

In retrospect, I felt like it was a string of beautiful passages about music and what it means to be a dedicated musician/composer, connected together with flat characters who don't experience much growth, despite all the traumas flung at them. It's as if these characters are given details about their lives which are intended to make them complex and multifaceted (vitiligo,
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
One of the reasons that I've become so taken with young adult fiction in recent years is the focus on coming of age, of finding oneself and accepting that person. Though young adults may grow and change more overtly, this is a lifelong process, and something universally relatable. Yet, somehow, adult fiction rarely focuses on these themes in a similar way, instead showing the way change affects adults through the lens of marital strife and infidelity. Sight Reading is just such a novel, ...more
Nancy McKibben
Jul 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: readers interested in classical music and professional musicians and relationships
Sight Reading
By Daphne Kalotay

A rising young British composer and his American wife and baby daughter land in Boston. In short order, one of his conservatory students falls in love with him; he reciprocates and divorces his wife, Hazel, and marries Remy, the student. This upset me, as the reader - poor wife, I thought indignantly - but the author reminds us, over the next twenty years of book time, that life is not that straightforward. Hazel’s thoughts just before Nicholas tells her he has
May 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
My advice to anyone writing a book about musicians is to first know what it is you are writing about. Besides little things like a pianist calling an index finger 'the 1st finger' and something along the lines of 'she didn't just make me play straight scales, she made me play relative minor scales too!' I was absolutely BEWILDERED by the idea that a little girl of 7 or 8 was given such an incredibly complex instrument as the violin, took it home, and learned how to play it with absolutely no ...more
Jul 16, 2013 rated it liked it
This book would be a good book club read, but the emphasis is totally on character development. Spoiler alert. Remy is very selfish, but doesn't realize she is so. She steals Nicolas from Hazel by being able to speak the same language musically. Hazel is a giver almost to the point of being a doormat (even her daughter views her this way.) Her daughter learns from her mother's mistakes and makes bold, assertive choices. I was rooting for Hazel the most in this book. Nicholas, while very gifted ...more
Apr 25, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: first-reads
I was looking forward very much to reading this book. I'm a violinist. The first fifty pages went over details I'm very familiar with, from the bruise-like wound violinists often develop on the left side of their necks to the competition between players in an orchestra. I enjoyed the details of repertoire that the orchestra was playing, as well as what the main character was playing in her private lessons and master classes.

I was enjoying the book until the adultery happened. The author didn't
Ann Woodbury Moore
Oct 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Composer-conductor Nicholas Elko, a rising star in the world of music when he joins the Boston Conservatory, falls in love with student violinist Remy and leaves his wife, Hazel, and young daughter for her. Remy feels guilty about breaking up a family and Hazel struggles with being a lonely divorced woman. Yet as two decades pass and the characters cope with pain and loss, a spirit of understanding, reconciliation, and generosity emerges. The lessons, in music as well as in living: “Always be ...more
Jul 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
The writing in this book is absolutely, perfectly lovely--like music, to use an obvious but apt comparison. The story follows three individuals over the course of several years--so it's certainly more character-driven than plot-driven. I felt a little cheated by the high stakes that the prologue sets up--once you get to the relevant part of the book, you realize that the stakes aren't really that high at all. But regardless, the writing is beautiful, and it's easy to just lazily disappear into ...more
Jan 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is truly an amazing work of literature! I thoroughly enjoyed it! It takes you through many emotions. It goes into the complexities of love, commitment, loyalty, sacrifice, pain, and how music somehow finds a way to weave itself into all of it and in and out of the lives of Hazel, Nicholas, and Remy. I recommend this book to anyone. I guarantee you have never read anything like it before.
It's a great read. Five stars from me!
May 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I loved this book and in.many parts I saw many places where circumstances in the book reminded me of my own experiences in life.. I read this book in little more than a day, and even when I had other things to do, I didn't want to put it down. An interesting story, about a group of friends from early 20's until close to 30's, it is centered around the orchestral music world, I was a navy wife, but still there were similarities. A excellent book.
Jun 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
About a conductor and the women in his life. Lyrically written. A treat for the eyes. Beautiful descriptions of emotion and music. Character studies, thin on plot, but satisfying like a lovely, intricate melody. The book itself felt as if it were constructed like a musical piece with themes moving in and out and yet all connected.
Feb 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book didn't have simplistic morals, but instead resolved complicated feelings into a moral stance that was rich and satisfying.
Dec 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: mom-books
After loving Russian Winter I was really hoping Kalotay would blow my socks off again.

Instead, all I got is a light baby's breath on my feet that was straddling that area between nice and annoying.

I found that the first half moved really quickly and then it lost all momentum. Hazel's story was basically a yawnfest and if I'm being completely honest, I'm not sure why she even got her own perspective in the first place. The story is really about Nicholas and Remy, and distracting my attention to
Marissa Seelye
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 01, 2018 rated it liked it
This book attracted my attention at the local library because of its setting in the world of classical music. As a former classical musician myself, I was very impressed by Daphne Kalotay's portrayal of musical life and what goes on in the musician's mind; this rang true with me and showed an intimate familiarity and loving attention to detail. Otherwise, I might not have bothered to finish it, because I simply did not feel any sympathy with any of the characters. I liked Remy, but she forfeited ...more
Aug 03, 2019 rated it liked it
The creative process and life in the classical/academic music world are explored in this work. In telling the story of 4 main characters we discover the joy and frustrations found in the pursuit of art. The parts of the work that centered on the characters and their relationships I found extremely interesting and moving. The descriptions of the music I found somewhat tedious as I not extremely knowledgeable in classical music. The most engaging part of the novel for me was the talented artist ...more
Apr 10, 2019 rated it liked it
A chance encounter between two women on the streets of Boston, takes them back to when they first met and unfolds how their lives have changed. Remy is a violinist and is now married to Hazel’s former husband, Nicholas, a composer. The story folds between the present and the past as we see Nicholas going from the brilliant rising star to now struggling to compose and Remy has her own worries and misgivings. The weave of their lives is revealed as we see how they have evolved over time and the ...more
Megan Pendleton
Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
An intriguing read for anyone who has ever wondered about the psyche of an artist and the frailty of human relationships. Set in Boston, the author does an excellent job of placing you in the setting without letting the location overwhelm the plot. I’ve read few books set in the late 80s to mid-90s and this one captures our pre-smartphone world. Good character development allows the reader into the mind of the narrators. Overall, an enjoyable, light read.
Sight Reading is the tale of Nicholas, a talented composer, his wife, a Southern belle named Hazel, and Remy, the violinist who destroys their marriage.

The book isn't sweeping in scope - it focuses quite strongly on Nicholas, Remy, and Hazel. However, just because a book isn't an epic doesn't mean it can't be emotionally satisfying. In addition, Sight Reading is beautifully written - it's worth reading.
Oct 04, 2018 rated it liked it
This novel should really be 3.5 stars. The language is lush and descriptive (“they [the shoes] leaned against each other as though stunned”) and the story itself is beautifully prosaic. It is a story about family in all of its strange and messy forms. The way music is woven throughout makes the inevitable human failings lyrical.
Ann Boytim
Dec 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Remy a violinist is married to Nicholas who was once married to Hazel. Hazel has moved on with her life but Nicholas and Hazel share a child as part of their marriage. Music plays a big part of the book from Europe to America and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Remy and Hazel meet after many years and share long held secrets.
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Daphne Kalotay grew up in New Jersey, where her parents had relocated from Ontario; her mother is Canadian, while her father came from Hungary to Canada as a teen. Daphne attended Vassar College, majoring in psychology, before moving to Boston to attend Boston University's graduate program in fiction writing. She stayed on at BU to study with Saul Bellow as part of the University Professors ...more
“Even the grandest lives come down to a few people and places. Loved ones, your daily work, your neighborhood. I don't mean that in a belittling way. I've been realizing how complete our lives can be with just the few people and activities you most love.” 4 likes
“if you just let things be, they eventually sort themselves out.” 0 likes
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