Music and Freedom by Zoe Morrison

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Title: Music and Freedom

Author: Zoe Morrison

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Vintage Australia/Random House Australia

Published: June 27, 2016

Format: paperback

Pages: 345

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: I have no use for forgiveness, not yet. But other ideas like that,
kindness, for example, I think that is fundamental. Resurrection;
I like that too. And love, of course, love, love, love.

Alice Murray learns to play the piano aged three on an orange orchard in rural Australia. Recognising her daughter’s gift, her mother sends Alice to boarding school in the bleak north of England, and there Alice stays for the rest of her childhood. Then she’s offered a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London, and on a summer school in Oxford she meets Edward, an economics professor who sweeps her off her feet.

Alice soon finds that Edwards is damaged, and she’s trapped. She clings to her playing and to her dream of becoming a concert pianist, until disaster strikes. Increasingly isolated as the years unravel, eventually Alice can’t find it in herself to carry on. Then she hears the most beautiful music from the walls of her house …

This novel’s love story is that of a woman who must embrace life again if she is to survive. Inspiring and compelling, it explores the dark terrain of violence and the transformative powers of music and love.

~*~

Music and Freedom is Zoe Morrison’s first novel, and it is a thought-provoking and eloquently told story for a debut novel. Throughout Alice’s life, she has been educated in England, in boarding schools and music programs, where music has given her a sense of self and freedom, though she longs to return home and be free there with her family. Unable to return home, she weds an Oxford economics professor – a man who is troubled and with very traditional ideas of how a woman should act and how a husband should be allowed to treat his wife. As a result of his demands and the abuse she suffers at his hands, something she cannot speak of with the women’s circle she is part of for fear of being blamed for his temper by others, Alice internalises the abuse and her fears. She tries to escape through her music, but is forced to play elsewhere when Edward is home, and soon, even her music becomes a prison when Edward demands she attends a concert and perform a complicated Rachmaninoff piece she is not given ample time to prepare.

The novel is told in short chapters that mirror a diary, and go back and forth between a young, vibrant Alice in the 1940s and 1950s to a disoriented, confused old woman, trying to claw towards a freedom that she has been denied for so long – whether physically by her husband, or emotionally by the thoughts of doubt that imprison her.

This structure shows how Alice became the way she is at the opening of the novel, and slowly, she finds a way to be free with the help of her neighbour in Oxford, Emily, and her son, Richard.

Zoe Morrison deals with the issue of domestic abuse and the silence it can cause, even when attempts are being made to combat it. Alice’s fight for freedom is life long, and only when she is an elderly woman, can she finally find the freedom she desires, and find a way back to music, and a way into a new form of freedom: writing.

An eye-opening and emotional story, it is told with care and sensitivity for Alice, and has incorporated necessary research. This is just one story, one experience in a time when there were different expectations for men and women in some areas, and a time when the lines between what people expected men and women to do began to blur. The setting of Oxford illustrates this in the traditions that Edward holds so dear, and in the desires that Alice has throughout the novel about her music and freedom.

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The Lake House by Kate Morton

9781742376516

 

The Lake House

 

Title: The Lake House

Author: Kate Morton

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Category: Fiction

Pages: 596

Available formats: Print and Ebook

Publication Date: 21/10/15

RRP: AU$32.99

Synopsis: A missing child.

 

June 1933, and the Edevane family’s country house, Loeanneth, is polished and gleaming, ready for the much-anticipated Midsummer Eve party. Alice Edevane, sixteen years old and a budding writer, is especially excited. Not only has she worked out the perfect twist for her novel, she’s also fallen helplessly in love with someone she shouldn’t have. But by the time midnight strikes and fireworks light up the night skies, the Edevane family will have suffered a loss so great that they leave Loeanneth forever.

 

An abandoned house.

 

Seventy years later, after a particularly troubling case, Sadie Sparrow is sent on an enforced break from her job with the Metropolitan Police. She retreats to her beloved grandfather’s cottage in Cornwall but soon finds herself at a loose end. Until one day, Sadie stumbles upon an abandoned house surrounded by overgrown gardens and dense woods, and learns the story of a baby boy who disappeared without a trace.

 

An unsolved mystery.

 

Meanwhile, in the attic writing room of her elegant Hampstead home, the formidable Alice Edevane, now an old lady, leads a life as neatly plotted as the bestselling detective novels she writes. Until a young police detective starts asking questions about her family’s past, seeking to resurrect the complex tangle of secrets Alice has spent her life trying to escape.

 

~*~

 

Kate Morton’s fifth novel starts with a mysterious scene that invites the reader into the story instantly. I wanted to know who this girl was, carrying a bag at night to bury. And why? Immediately, the reader is thrust into the world of mystery, the mystery disappearance of little Theo Edevane in 1933, and his family. Parallel to this story is that of Sadie Sparrow, a police detective on leave after a troubling case, and reprimand – seventy years after Theo’s disappearance. She discovers Loeanneth during a walk with her grandfather’s dogs, and is drawn into the mystery of the missing child, Theo.

When Sadie contacts Alice about the disappearance of Theo in 1933, eager to uncover the truth, a series of events lead to the lives of Sadie, her grandfather, Alice and Alice’s assistant colliding to resolve what happened.

Like Kate’s other novels, The Lake House journeys between 1933 and 2003, and the years of The First World War and the intervening seventy years, with significant events and clues being dropped throughout the book at careful intervals, and the right places. The story of Theo’s disappearance parallels Sadie’s current life, the case that made her break protocol, that keeps haunting her throughout the book, and her own past that has come back to haunt her throughout the book. These threads slowly combine to unite the story in a way that still has me thinking about it, even days after completing the final chapter.

The setting of Cornwall, and the mysterious Loeannath create the perfect air of mystery, and the house, left alone for seventy years, acts as a time machine, transporting the characters and the reader back to the time of the Midsummer Party, and disappearance of little Theo, and the raw emotions of the time bubble to the surface when Alice enters the house with Bertie, Sadie’s grandfather, Sadie and Peter. Entering the house with them, the shadow of the mystery hung over the beautiful house yet at the same time, it was as though the house had come back to life for the first time in seventy years.

The mystery was well presented, and the parallels in the lives of the characters echoed each other in an effective manner, bringing it to a nice conclusion that has left me wanting to know more about the fates of these characters. I look forward to the next book by Kate Morton.