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River Music

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Gloria Murray's daughter jokes that Gloria would have sold her first born to further her musical career - a reproach closer to the truth than anyone but Gloria suspects. Gloria, born just before the Great Depression, knows from the moment she hears a soaring song played on the piano that she must follow that river of emotion. After an adolescence playing in churches and ho Gloria Murray's daughter jokes that Gloria would have sold her first born to further her musical career - a reproach closer to the truth than anyone but Gloria suspects. Gloria, born just before the Great Depression, knows from the moment she hears a soaring song played on the piano that she must follow that river of emotion. After an adolescence playing in churches and hotel lobbies, she prepares to study in post-World War II France, when another sort of passion intrudes and, halfway through her year abroad, she finds herself forced into a hard choice that she shares with no one. Her career blossoms, she marries, and has two more children, and her secret seems best forgotten - until, thirty years later, she learns of the murder of a young composer who could have been her son. Set against a backdrop of war, economic changes, and social upheavals, River Music explores the sacrifices that women make to fulfill their destiny, the wildcards of sex and passion, and the complicated relationships between mothers and their children.


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Gloria Murray's daughter jokes that Gloria would have sold her first born to further her musical career - a reproach closer to the truth than anyone but Gloria suspects. Gloria, born just before the Great Depression, knows from the moment she hears a soaring song played on the piano that she must follow that river of emotion. After an adolescence playing in churches and ho Gloria Murray's daughter jokes that Gloria would have sold her first born to further her musical career - a reproach closer to the truth than anyone but Gloria suspects. Gloria, born just before the Great Depression, knows from the moment she hears a soaring song played on the piano that she must follow that river of emotion. After an adolescence playing in churches and hotel lobbies, she prepares to study in post-World War II France, when another sort of passion intrudes and, halfway through her year abroad, she finds herself forced into a hard choice that she shares with no one. Her career blossoms, she marries, and has two more children, and her secret seems best forgotten - until, thirty years later, she learns of the murder of a young composer who could have been her son. Set against a backdrop of war, economic changes, and social upheavals, River Music explores the sacrifices that women make to fulfill their destiny, the wildcards of sex and passion, and the complicated relationships between mothers and their children.

37 review for River Music

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mary Soderstrom

    Swept up by River Music: Mary Soderstrom's new novel charts course of pioneering pianist A really nice review by Ian McGillis, published on July 1, 2015 in The Gazette of Montreal For someone whose new novel does a convincing job of getting inside the head of a concert pianist, Mary Soderstrom has spent very little time at the keyboard ' the musician's kind, that is, not the writer's kind. Talking in her Outremont home last week, the Montreal novelist and journalist cheerfully admitted to not being Swept up by River Music: Mary Soderstrom's new novel charts course of pioneering pianist A really nice review by Ian McGillis, published on July 1, 2015 in The Gazette of Montreal For someone whose new novel does a convincing job of getting inside the head of a concert pianist, Mary Soderstrom has spent very little time at the keyboard ' the musician's kind, that is, not the writer's kind. Talking in her Outremont home last week, the Montreal novelist and journalist cheerfully admitted to not being musically inclined at all. 'I took maybe three weeks of lessons at one point,' she recalled of her brief window of pianistic application while growing up in Walla Walla, Washington. 'It meant being inside, and practising,' Soderstrom said of her child-rationale for giving up those lessons. But it could be that there was some long-range intuition at play, too. Maybe she was already sensing something whose true implications didn't dawn for her until much later, and which she sums up now in the bluntest of terms: 'It's really hard to be a musician who eats.' The struggle of which Soderstrom speaks is at the heart of River Music (Cormorant, 276 pp, $24), the story of a woman fighting for a spot in a sphere and at a time ' the world of classical music in Canada from the postwar period ' when the odds were very much stacked against her. Played out against a rich historical backdrop that paints a picture of changing Quebec in deft strokes, it's a novel that conveys the single-mindedness it takes to master an artistic discipline, and that also admirably nails something much harder to dramatize. As Gloria Murray's life and career proceed, they become effectively a study in diminished expectations ' not failure, exactly, but the slow-dawning awareness that your biggest dreams are likely to go unfulfilled. 'Many things demand a certain ruthlessness if you're going to be world-class,' Soderstrom said of her protagonist's incremental progress. 'But I think music is even harder than other artistic endeavours, where you can make a living with a general level of competence. Barbara Kingsolver is an interesting case. When she was young, she decided she was going to study piano, and halfway through the second year of her program she realized that for every pianist who makes it to the big time, there are a hundred who spend their time in hotel bars playing Blue Moon. So she did a degree in science instead, and eventually became a writer. Which is not to say that writers don't have a hard time, too. I'm sure there's a certain transposition of myself and my (writer) friends in this book.' Gloria is the kind of heroine we don't come across much anymore. Prickly, sometimes selfish, not a person who goes out of her way to curry favour, she'd be at home in the pages of a Muriel Spark or Margaret Laurence novel. In the estimation of the author herself, she's a proto-feminist. 'I do think that a lot of the terms people might use to describe Gloria ' headstrong, wilful, a loose cannon ' wouldn't be used to describe a man behaving exactly the same way in exactly the same situations,' Soderstrom said. 'There was, and still is, a double standard, not just in the music world but in society.' Gloria's relationship with her two children evinces an inversion of generational stereotypes, with the mother, unconventional to the core, finding herself exasperated at the more conservative tendencies of her offspring, particularly her daughter, whose rebellion comes in choosing a path seemingly diametrically opposed to music. Soderstrom's rendering of their delicate dynamic is one of the novel's greatest strengths, and the complications start at the very beginning. 'It's something a lot of women experience, I suspect,' she said of Gloria's conflicted earliest experience of motherhood. 'You're supposed to love this baby from the moment it's born, and probably most of the time you do, but there are times of 'Oh my God, what is this?' The real connection sometimes only comes later.' With her two children out in the world ' a daughter, 39, and a son, 35 ' and having mostly stopped doing journalism, Soderstrom now finds herself in a prolific writing period, with another book already in the pipeline. An integral figure in the local literary community, she has come a long way from the Pacific Northwest. When she was eight her family moved from Washington to San Diego, where she went to high school; she then studied English at Berkeley. (She graduated the spring before the autumn of the seminal Free Speech sit-ins.) It was while working on the school paper there that she met her husband, who went on to obtain a PhD in economics; in 1968, he accepted an offer for a three-year posting at McGill, a temporary set-up that ended up lasting until his retirement in 2008. 'What we always tell people is that it wasn't a plan, but it wasn't an accident either. Because we really love Montreal.' As we spoke, the handsome old upright behind Soderstrom in the family dining room served as a salutary reminder not only of her fictional heroine's journey, but of an arc much closer to home: that of Soderstrom's daughter, who studied piano from early childhood and eventually switched to the viola da gamba. 'She got a master's in performance in the Netherlands, and a doctorate at Université de Montréal, and she still can't make a career of it, even though Montreal is a hotbed for early music. She still plays and teaches, but she now works full time as an administrative assistant. It's such a tough world (for artists). I always say to young writers, 'Find a partner who can support you.' ' Hardships or not, no shortage of young people keep responding to music's siren call, and that's where River Music's title comes in. 'It really is the perfect metaphor,' Soderstrom said. 'Talk to any serious musician and invariably the idea is expressed ' you get carried off in music. It's something that's bigger than you.'

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kelley

    Novel received courtesy of Goodreads.com giveaway The adjective that jumps right to mind when describing this novel is haunting. I've heard books described this way before but this is the first time that I've really felt it--haunting. Gloria who, as a child, wants nothing more than to be a pianist. After World War II, she's left to make her way in the world. Many choices that she is forced to make are impossible but she makes them; choices that further the music at the expense of her life, her so Novel received courtesy of Goodreads.com giveaway The adjective that jumps right to mind when describing this novel is haunting. I've heard books described this way before but this is the first time that I've really felt it--haunting. Gloria who, as a child, wants nothing more than to be a pianist. After World War II, she's left to make her way in the world. Many choices that she is forced to make are impossible but she makes them; choices that further the music at the expense of her life, her soul. She describes the music throughout the book as a river. The only place she feels whole. Although many would look at her life and see nothing but happiness and success, what lies behind a woman's face is often what haunts her forever.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Geoffrey

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cecilia Dunbar Hernandez

  5. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cormorant Books

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tony Fecteau

  8. 4 out of 5

    Carmen M

  9. 5 out of 5

    Helen Bowes

  10. 4 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  11. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Gunning

  12. 5 out of 5

    J

  13. 5 out of 5

    Joanne

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tammy Pooser

  15. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  16. 5 out of 5

    Carla

  17. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

  18. 5 out of 5

    Phyllis Krall

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Obrien

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ainy K

  21. 5 out of 5

    Daryl Moad

  22. 4 out of 5

    Betty

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Hall

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nicola Fantom

  26. 5 out of 5

    Carley Cesare

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dr. Cole Marie Mckinnon

  28. 5 out of 5

    Julia Conway

  29. 5 out of 5

    Stella Clarkson

  30. 5 out of 5

    Debbie Kennedy

  31. 5 out of 5

    Abby Lewis

  32. 5 out of 5

    NormaCenva

  33. 5 out of 5

    Dianne

  34. 5 out of 5

    Mia Redgrave

  35. 4 out of 5

    Dad

  36. 4 out of 5

    Vykki

  37. 4 out of 5

    Melitta Cross

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