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An Equal Music

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  9,538 ratings  ·  782 reviews
The violinist hero of Vikram Seth's third novel would very much like to be hearing secret harmonies. Instead, living in London 10 years after a key disaster, Michael Holme is easily irritated by his beautiful young (and even French!) girlfriend and by his colleagues in the Maggiore Quartet. In short, he's fed up with playing second fiddle in life and art. Yet a chance enco ...more
Hardcover, 381 pages
Published March 25th 1999 by W&N (first published 1999)
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Rachit Singh Yes, but would you choose not to read it just because of this?

Simply curious to know. Many people reviewed Lolita negatively for the reason that it w…more
Yes, but would you choose not to read it just because of this?

Simply curious to know. Many people reviewed Lolita negatively for the reason that it was a story of a pedophile but I feel that it has much more in it than that, to just let it go for this one reason. :/(less)

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Average rating 3.79  · 
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 ·  9,538 ratings  ·  782 reviews

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Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘An Equal Music’ is indeed a musical story. The language is immensely beautiful. Throughout the book, one sees how much time human beings spend tuning ‘things’ so that they can live in harmony. In this story, the characters struggle with notes, compositions, and life. Both music and life demand the same things, it is only in certain moments the right notes of joy, bliss, and happiness are struck. The central character in the story, not only in the practice sessions but in real life too, searches ...more
Lynne King

It’s the weirdest thing, a quartet. I don’t know what to compare it to. A marriage? a firm? a platoon under fire? a self-regarding, self-destructive priesthood? It has so many different tensions mixed in with its pleasures.

I was absolutely enthralled with Seth’s two novels “The Golden Gate” and “A Suitable Boy” and so I couldn’t wait to start reading this book. But it turned out to have an odd effect on me as I alternatively loved and hated it. I couldn’t understand this at all. I put the bo
Kevin Ansbro
May 22, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Violinists, music lovers, luvvies who are easily-excited
Seeing this much-lauded novel on one of my bookshelves yesterday reminded me to post a review.

I read this several years ago, when it was being fêted by culturati luvvies the world over.

"A masterpiece ... as clear, lovely and civilised as a Schubert quartet" -Daily Mail

"Seth follows the heart's changes as rigorously as if they were the interweaving lines of a Bach score, and, at its frequent best, his prose, as he intends, is as clear, lovely, inexorable, as a fugue." -Evening Standard

I, on the o
Your words have given me life and taken sleep away. The park gates open at first light. Slate-grey and coral, dawn is reflected in the pool. The flowers have been turfed under in the sunken garden. The chack of a squirrel, the splash of a small duck, a blackbird hopping about beneath the thinned-out linden hedge: this is all. I am alone with this troubled joy.

That beautiful, gray day when I found you, Equal Music, a parallel to those drops of hard rain on windowpanes. Go to the used bookstor
Jun 07, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As you take your seat and the room becomes hushed with anticipation your eyes are on the performer. Not any performer but the one in the quartet you came to hear. He plays second violin. Few people like to play second seat. You don’t get do play all those fancy solos. He loves his violin. It’s been with him in a tender devoted relationship longer than most people. His fingers move upon his instrument in fluid motion that holds your attention, hypnotizing you until your eyes meet his. You look do ...more
May 17, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Bemused between 2.5 and 3 stars so let's go with 2.5!🌟

Undisappointingly beautiful proses led me to the very last page of this melancholic tale or else I'm quite certain that I would have dnf'd this one.
Now, the book revolves around a quartet in London where the lead violinist Michael reminisces about his lover Julia and in a matter of events reconciles with her ten years later and sparks fly between the two.

Innocuously speaking, neither the plot is extraordinary nor the characters are memorabl
Rachel Stern
Jul 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Apr 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reread, 2008-list
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
Sonia Gomes
Jan 11, 2010 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: For those who love classical music with all its intricacies
The book was filled with Music...
Sadly I did not enjoy the book and that has nothing to do with the book or its Story
It has to do with me, I think I would have enjoyed this book more, understood it more if I knew more about Western Classical music. Sadly I know next to nothing about it.

Maybe if and when I learn more about classical music, I will read it once again? I do not know.

I have decide to not rate this book as I do not have the expertise in Music to do so.
Sarah Milne
Jun 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 27, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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 see any reason for this great love that existed between him and Julia. ...more
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The bad rating isn't on this book. it just wasn't the book for me.

I don't really understand the characters' choices. Again I'm not satisfied with the ending...

It's amazing how you can ruin your own life and make yourself miserable. Michael's life is the kind of life I'm scared of for myself.
Since reading A Suitable Boy a couple of years back, I was highly impressed by the writing style and character sketch of Vikram Seth.
An Equal Music has been on my radar since then. Got a paperback recently, and the beautiful cover added to the charm of diving into this. BR with Smi motivated me further.

What I loved:
1. Chapters are structured exactly like A Suitable Boy. Small chapters with indices like 1.1 to 1.13 etc.
2. Gripping right from the start.
3. Excessive use of musical jargons, whi
James Henderson
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
Julie Christine
It is hard to believe this is the same author of A Suitable Boy! Just as Seth wrapped you up in the world of upper-caste India in the mid 50s, amidst amazing social and political change, now you are led gently into the contemporary classical music scene of London, Vienna, Venice; a love story, a tragedy, a loving tribute to chamber music and insights into the world of performance. THe laughter and lightheartedness in A Suitable Boy are absent here; the characters are treated with almost too much ...more
Pallavi Kamat
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So I read this book for the 2nd time and found it to be even more amazing than the 1st time around. It's a story of Michael and his music quartet, and it's a story of Michael and Julia and their love.

If you are a music lover, then this book will be a buffet for you; Seth talks about so much music throughout - there's Bach and Schubert and Beethoven and Mozart and their musical pieces in great detail!

If you aren't a music lover, you can just enjoy Seth's poetic prose and his descriptions of Londo
Reindert Van Zwaal
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
There is one thing the book really excels in: describing music.
Musical aspects are really recognizable (if u are a musician) and well worked out.
You can almost feel it flow out of the pages during rehearsals and concerts that take place.

The plot was interesting, although there wasn't much happening in the middle of the book.
Writing is almost poetical in some parts, somehow matching the love and music themes.
Oct 05, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I even question giving this book as much as 2 stars. This is an adequate but Unimpressive character study about professional musicians and the lives they lead, but is cancerous plagued by a main character so supremely and wholly unlikable that I cannot fathom why Vikram Seth wrote him that way. He doesn't gain anything or change, not really. He is only barely more infantile at the end of the book than at the beginning. The entire main plot of this book is technically serviceable, but serves no r ...more
Nov 23, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
This is the story of the Maggiore Quartet composed by Michael, Piers, Helen (brother and sister) and Billy.

However the main plot involves the love story between Michael - a music student in Vienna and Julia McNicol, a pianist.

After a nervous breakdown, Michael unexpectedly leaves Vienna as well as Julia. A few months later, we didn’t manage to contact Julia.

By a faith of destiny, ten years later, Michael saw her in a bus in London, tries to pursuit her but she got lost in the traffic.

While in a
Jul 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Am not equal to dissecting or reviewing An Equal Music.
Suffice to say that it was a wonderful experience, especially to a person who is not passionate about classical music and who doesn't know the ABCD thereof.
Though I couldn't comprehend differences between D minor, F etc... i enjoyed reading about the musical dilemmas.
Loved the interaction between the music fraternity.
The poignant bitter love story was an added bonus.
Mike, Julia, other members of the quarter and the whole premise of this be
Aug 09, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 24, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read ‘A Suitable Boy’ by Vikram Seth many years ago and I loved it, so I was super excited to see another old work by Seth in the sale at my local secondhand bookshop, so I purchased it with no real expectation and jumped in.

Our main character is Michael, a quartet violinist who is reunited with his lost love, Julia, after 10 years. We follow the pair as they begin an affair and Michael deals with the day to day pressure of being him.

Like many others, this book fell short for me. My paragraph
Trishita (TrishReviews_ByTheBook)
I can attest to the soul-stirring power of words. I can talk about the moving power of music. But imagine words like the ebb and flow of music. Oh, the emotional repertoire!

Vikram Seth fine tunes his words in a harmonic cadence, and you find yourself humming along all the way to the end. It is as if you know all the words, it is as if you’ve read this before yet it is like an all-new experience of reading, it is comforting as only your favourite songs can be, it is as soulful as only your camara
Mar 14, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book promised SO much and delivered so little.

The ending was perfect. It made me gasp and then simultaneously smile and almost sob a little. It was simple, heartrending and beautiful - everything that the rest of the book tried to but couldn't be.

The love story, if it could even be called that, was so shallow. We never really did find out what it was that made Michael fall so deeply in love with Julia, we were never shown how they once were together, what made them "fit" together; we were
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
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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

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