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A Genius in the Family: An Intimate Biography of Jacqueline du Pré

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  458 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Jacqueline du Pré saw the outlines of her short, brilliant, and tragic life when she was still very young. The first time she heard a cello (she was 4 years old), she said, "Mummy, I want to make that sound." She got a cello for her 5th birthday and made her professional debut at age 16. She went on to become one of the century's most amazing musicians for 10 years. Then h ...more
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Published January 1st 1998 by Vintage, 1998 (1997). (first published January 1st 1997)
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Average rating 3.82  · 
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 ·  458 ratings  ·  41 reviews


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Caroline
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kricket
i borrowed this book from my dad for my flight home. i grew up with jacqueline du pre playing the elgar cello concerto on our stereo but didn't know anything about her rather tragic life. i was also intrigued that my father, who normally reads extremely dry nonfiction about mozart, rare birds, or sailing vessels would pick up something that looked so steamy.

the best word i can come up with to summarize "hilary and jackie" is bizarre. originally titled "a genius in the family," it documents the
...more
Janna
Jul 06, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir
I have given three stars because I love Jackie and couldn't put the book down, but so much of this seems odd to me. I hear a venom in her sister's writing that makes me think of trouble I had with my own sister. I wonder what Jackie would have to say? I have doubts about the validity of the story and the spirit in which it was written.
Dan Smith
Nov 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book truly fascinating. I was a huge fan of the film Hilary and Jackie and I shared it with both my mom and my eldest sister (both musicians) and they both loved it (my sister usually doesn't like films I recommend to her). I tried to find the book that inspired it at the local library and was VERY disappointed to find that the city of Salt Lake does not consider it a worthy member of their collection. My sister ended up buying the paperback edition off of Alibris and we all ended u ...more
A.U.C.
Mar 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
Even though I think that everybody can enjoy this book, I especially recommend it to musicians, such as myself. This is mostly because you will understand the music passages, and because you will find a special delight and understanding in the love that the protagonist had for her instrument that not even music-lovers would understand. Even though I play the trumpet and the guitar, it still is a little hard to understand.

That is probably what I enjoyed the most about Hilary and Jackie. The music
...more
Jeana
A couple years ago, I stumbled upon a black-and-white video of Jacqueline du Pre playing Elgar's Cello Concerto and I couldn't get enough. It brought tears to my eyes, the emotion in the music was so real. This is the story of Jacqueline du Pre told by her older sister Hilary (a piano and flute player) and little brother Piers (a pilot).

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the childhood and how Jacqueline got her first cello and what she played and how she played. I was interested in how her sist
...more
Primrosebarks
“As Jackie’s talent became more evident, the balance of our family life altered and we felt compelled to nurture both her and her colossal gift. Following Mum’s lead, we all supported Jackie and watched as she shone in the spotlight. She became the centre of our attention and was automatically and without question put first.” (p.400)

This paragraph is a great summary of this book. Was it healthy? Did the other children and husband suffer from being ignored? Hilary and Piers du Pre offer a frank,
...more
Heather
As a former professional musician, I greatly enjoyed this book as an insight into the life of a musician who was far greater than 99.9% of all others. I have heard musicians who are so gifted that they transcend the petty jealousies that can arise between musicians in this fiercely competitive field, instead uniting them in admiration; Jacqueline du Pré was most certainly one of these (although I am not sure that her sister Hilary felt this way).

That's one side of it; in other respects, the boo
...more
Kristopher
Jul 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful biography of the greatest cellist that lived as told by her brother and sister. Written in a conversational narrative style. Does require some background in the music world, and you will soon be searching for the CDs of the music mentioned, particularly the Elgar Cello Sonatas.
Pauline  Butcher Bird
Jacqueline's De Pre's tragic diagnosis of multiple sclerosis when she was 28 years old brought to an end her glittering career as a world-renowned cellist but this event is overshadowed by her affair with her brother-in-law, Kiffer and her sister, Hilary's tolerance of the two lovers escaping together for two weeks to satisfy Jacqueline's sexual needs while Hilary is left at home with the children. Full marks to Hilary for the courage to reveal this family drama, something that many might have h ...more
Miriam
Feb 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As much as this book recounts the life of Jackqueline Du Pre, it also details the family system that nurtured both the woman and her talent so that her music could be shared with the world. At times, humorous, at times tragic, and at times overwhelming in its honesty, Jackie's siblings invite us to become temporary members of a loving family whose members were willing to make hard sacrifices to support the "Genius in the Family."
Gabriela Francisco
I started the book admiring Jacqueline, and ended it pitying her. Truly, there is a cost to everything. We mortals are more blessed than we imagine.
Rudy Seifert
A 2 star book about a 4 star subject.
Rachel
Mar 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good.
Edith
May 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Jacqueline du Pre- born in 1945, English, cello prodigy and genius, professional debut at age 16, played for Pablo Casals, studied in Russia with Rostropovich, married to world-renowned pianist Daniel Barenboim, playing at her peak in her early 20’s and performing in the highest venues the world over, muscular sclerosis diagnosed at age 28, in a wheel chair 18 months later, and dead at age 42.

First, I read this book and then watched the movie. HATED the movie. Do not bother with it- in no way d
...more
Anna Gaffey
Apr 03, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Jacqueline Du Pre, scandalmakers, sob artists
Wow. This is definitely an intimate biography. Hilary and Piers Du Pre describe their sister's life as they remember it: a mix of music and personal so detailed that it has been called exploitative and insulting. (I did feel a bit voyeuristic while reading in the airport! But then, I was crying openly by the end, and that was more embarrassing for me.)
This is a biography of Jacqueline Du Pre, the English cellist. Told from her siblings' perspectives, Jackie is a child prodigy who grows up to ear
...more
Beth
May 01, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I saw the movie, Hilary and Jackie, and now have read the book. It was in the bed and breakfast we stayed in when we visited Becca and Luca in Brooklyn and I'd forgotten to bring something to read. Becca found it.

I think the book and movie go together very well. Jackie du Pre, a tremendously talented concert cellist, was married to the conductor Daniel B . . . can't spell his name. Shortly after her career had taken off she got MS and was not able to play. She died in her late 40s. The book is w
...more
Courtenay
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
William
Jan 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beyond enjoying the tragic story of this gifted musician, I was captured by the honesty and memory of the authors: her siblings.

I used to travel widely, in the age before smart phones. I always took a handful of photographs to share with those I would meet. Invariably their questions drifted from the people in the foreground of the photos - my wife and children - to the background. "What type of tree is this?" "What is this small building?" "Does everyone have a dog?" "What are you eating?"

In o
...more
Korynn
Mar 23, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Saw the movie, now read the book! Yes, it's as simple as that. In this case, meet the brother! This is a memoir told from both the sister and brother of Jackie Du Pre the famous cellist. It confirms that all the Du Pre's were amazing individuals in their own rights, and how all of the family sacrificed to help support Jackie. Her sister reveals a real shocker, that her husband slept with Jackie with her knowledge, which is pretty rife with family turmoil. Her brother paints a portrait of a woman ...more
Faith Justice
I finally got to this one and enjoyed it, but probably not as much as my husband who is a cello player. It is a fascinating story of genius and the toll it takes on a family - the original title was A Genius in the Family. I felt the new title - Hilary and Jackie: the true story of two sisters who shared a passion, a madness and a man was designed by marketers who wanted to capitalize on one of the more sensational aspects of the sisters' relationship and didn't really reflect the book written b ...more
Carly
Jul 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's stories like these that seem so unreal that they can't have been non-fiction, but they are. The life of the du Pre family was hilarious at times, sad and tragic at others. So many incredible and crazy things happened to this family. The reason this book doesn't get more than 3 stars is that I found the alternating narrators a bit confusing. I often forgot who was narrating and I also felt that the narration was unevenly spread. Hilary narrated much more that Piers. I also feel that they are ...more
Amy
Dec 26, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I took about 6 months to read this and I'm glad. I only read a little at a time... I think if I tried to sit down and just read it through I would have gotten very bored, but in little snippets it was doable. This is the story of Jacqueline du Pre, a cellist who would have been world-renowned had she not died from complications of MS. She was married to Daniel Barenboim, now a famous conductor, and she was a little crazy. The book is written by her brother and sister and has some controversial i ...more
Richp
Oct 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If one wants to enjoy this as a book, think of it as a novel of people both highly functional and highly disfunctional at the same time. Suspend one's judgment of plausibility because in the real world stuff like this happens.

As a memoir it is certainly very important to those interested in various subjects including the classic music world, mental illness, multiple schlerosis, and real genius. As a memoir in which the authors are major participants in some sordid situations, I speculate about
...more
Karissa
Mar 25, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
The writing was fine and easy to read. It was written about the life of two sisters, written by one of the sisters and their brother. The story was so-so. I am not sure if it would be better if I liked reading about musicians and the cello? basically it was a weird story and a weird family. Jackie is selfish and Hilary is very odd. You don't like them both in the end. The brother seems the most normal. Very little about MS but the last chapters.
Michelle Noelle
May 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was pretty good, but a little disturbing too. I guess I just don't understand the music/artist lifestyle. There were certainly very moving parts of the story and how much love and dedication Hilary and Jackie had toward each other. I enjoyed it, but skipped over a lot of the music stuff that I didn't understand.
Katy
Aug 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a true story (my favorite kind) that will leave you feeling uncomfortable at best. Most people would probably be better off seeing the movie and skipping the book. It's a good story, but I don't think most people can relate to a woman loaning her husband sexually to her sister because the sister is a genius and needs to have sex with her sister's husband...?
Chris
Jan 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone.
This book is a peek into what it is like to be a musician, and you begin to understand the relationship between music and musician. It's a great, fairly fast read, and yes, I cried my eyes out at the end.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with MS, this is a must-read.
Toni
Feb 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting story. I saw the movie as well, but the book is definitely a good read. Jacqueline duPre is one of my favorite cello players, so to get an insight of her from her real life sister who is the writer of the book is priceless.
Vivien
Jun 14, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For those who grew up with sibling rivalry!
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