cover image While the Music Lasts

While the Music Lasts

Alice McVeigh. Trafalgar Square Publishing, $24.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-85797-939-8

Romance and sex preoccupy the members of the Orchestra of London in McVeigh's captivating, witty debut novel about musicians loving, infighting and jockeying for position. Her protagonist-vibrant, moody, insecure viola player Isabel Bonner, who's in her 30s-drifts from lover to lover until she becomes infatuated with a considerably older and married cellist. While the pair's tortured affair plays out, leading Isabel to drugs and alcohol, other liaisons bloom or wilt. Elinor Jay, heiress and obsessive concertgoer, falls for an arrogant Israeli cellist who swears by his psychic Tarot card reader. Rough-and-ready Australian horn player Mirabel Felton is raped by the orchestra's conductor; she dies, willing her money to her passionate friend Elaine Brown with the proviso that Elaine use the legacy to leave her dominating husband. Meanwhile, an irreverent, misogynist, homosexual cellist is devastated to learn that an ex-lover has AIDS. Writing through a variety of narrative voices, McVeigh offers uncanny insights into music, love and the human heart. Though her characters sometimes border on stereotypes, her portrayal of the psychosexual duet between men and women, and of the music-making process in a symphony orchestra, sings with lyrical intensity and eloquent feeling. (July)