Daisy May Johnson's Reviews > She Shall Have Music

She Shall Have Music by Kitty Barne
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I first came across 'She Shall Have Music' during my Masters when I started to collate a list of children's books featuring gifted and talented characters. It's a topic that still fascinates me; this balance of the incredibly unique individual with talents far beyond comprehension with the needs and necessity of the form. How do you write difference when, in a way, every book is about difference? (Sweeping, sweeping, let me sweep with such statements).

'She Shall Have Music' is an odd, rich little gem. It's not the easiest to read at parts; some elements have dated quite immensely, there's a bit of 'gosh let's get to the point' and, in the edition that I got out of the library, somebody had luridly coloured in all of the illustrations. Books of this age (published 1938) and ilk are lived-in titles; reflections of the world we live in and the readers we have been. They reflect what was and not what is and it is hard to judge a text by the standards of one age when it has been written in the standards of another. And so, I acknowledge the difficulties of it whilst letting them be, I read over them and acknowledge my reactions whilst recognising them for what they are.

And it is, in a way, when we slide past these awkward moments and really get going on the story that 'She Shall Have Music' begins to play its tune loud and strong. Books featuring gifted and talented characters often have this arc, this long and stiff assemblage of elements and characters and Hurdles To Be Overcome, and you sort of just have to get through it.

When Karen, the central character, starts to discover her talent, we gain some charming and vivid moments and the story begins to get quite confident. It also gets quite pointed too. Barne is clear on what is Good Style and What Is Not. There are some intensely humourous points and Lessons To Be Learnt before Kitty 'shall have music wherever she goes'. A direct, complex and yet still oddly appealing book. And one with an awesome cast of supporting siblings.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
April 27, 2015 – Shelved

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message 1: by Emily (last edited Apr 27, 2015 07:39AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Emily It's been a while since I read this, so I don't feel I'm remembering the things that made it difficult, or distancing, because of its time for you. My biggest issue with it was an odd quirk in the typography of the edition I read, whereby whenever a "t" followed an "s" or a "c" they were connected by a little line above the letters that looked like a misplaced accent mark. Very distracting. The musical part was, I remember, very well done and believable. I love that Ruth Gervis is the illustrator. As you perhaps already know, she was Noel Streatfeild's sister, and Kitty Barne herself was married to a cousin of Streatfeild. It makes me feel very much as though her books are cousins to Ballet Shoes, although they're for the most part not as quite good. Musical Honours is my favorite of Kitty Barnes' books, with this one coming second.


Daisy May Johnson You don't know how much I am relieved to see you mention that thing about the typography - I couldn't figure out what was going on for a long while. Isn't it the strangest thing? It's

I think what I found difficult were some of the attitudes and class commentary and social interplay, nothing too precise that I could verbalise in a coherent manner but it sort of pushed me away from the text until I came back to it a couple of chapters in.

(And thank you so much for the context! I know so very little about Kitty Barne so it's rather lovely to hear more about her. )


Emily I just found out that Barne wrote a sequel to this book, nearly impossible to find, but it's now being reissued by Greyladies: http://www.greyladiesbooks.co.uk/page... I was so excited I just had to tell someone!


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