Grace Notes

Bernard MacLaverty, Author
Bernard MacLaverty, Author W. W. Norton & Company $23 (277p) ISBN 978-0-393-04542-0
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-393-31841-8
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7540-0186-7
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Rarely the territory of male writers, the travails of postnatal depression and single motherhood get a sober, delicate treatment in the third novel from popular Northern Irish author MacLaverty (Lamb; Cal). The novel opens at the funeral of Catherine McKenna's father, a small-town publican, and goes back to trace Catherine's journey from her hometown, through music school in Scotland, into the male-dominated world of musical composition. Along the way, she takes up with Dave, a charming but ultimately abusive alcoholic; when she becomes pregnant, the conflict between her music and the endless demands of motherhood force her into an artistic impasse. Having left Dave, she battles clinical depression; having returned home, she must face the painful, irreconcilable differences of opinion and outlook that for years have estranged her from her religious parents, her Irishness and her church. The narrative moves gracefully from present to past, as childhood memories provide welcome moments of comfort and comic relief amid Catherine's wry reflections on her craft and her struggles to practice it. The most interesting writing manifests itself in Catherine's expression of her creative philosophy: her sources of inspiration, the process of composition and how the tones, textures and rhythms of sound blend to create what we appreciate as music. McLaverty's own music here is restrained and spare, but it swells to a crescendo in the denouement when one of Catherine's compositions is played in concert. (Sept.)
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