Thursday, July 12, 2018

Book Review: 'The Virtuoso' by Virginia Burges

British author Virginia Burges makes an impressive literary debut with THE VIRTUOSO – a novel that embraces Virginia’s passion for music in that she is an accomplished violinist who has performed in amateur orchestras. Her background is in the travel industry as a sales representative for Quantas Airways (she is half Australian!) and as a writer and editor for Travel Places, a specialist travel company, who organise the travel for sports teams and individual competitors to international events ranging from Formula 1 to the Olympic Games. She also is a speaker for the Women’s Institute (Buckinghamshire Federation), addressing how to write fiction, the importance of a musical education and health and wellness.

Few authors could address the concept of the impact of music on life – especially the raise and fall of a virtuoso. But that is exactly what Virginia accomplishes in this fascinating novel that blends passion for music, the tragedy that impacts the life of a woman committed to being a violin virtuoso, and the discovery of love – an elevated state that has its pitfalls, too.

From page one throughout this book the quality of writing is masterful. Virginia opens not with a Prelude or Overture or Prologue, but instead with a direct confrontation with her main character. ‘A frisson of fear ran through Isabelle as she crouched down to place her violin carefully into its red velvet lined case. She stood, straightened her back and turned to see shiny, eager eyes trained on her. She didn’t regard her talent as an inspiration to others, not even musicians. She did, however, think of herself as very fortunate to have made a stellar career out of doing something she loved; playing the violin. Now it was time to give something back. ‘Do you remember your first time?’ The question came from the grinning face of a young male student. His lopsided smile and intense stare hinted at how awestruck he was by the presence of the violin virtuoso, Isabelle Bryant. ‘My first time?’ Isabelle gave a nervous laugh. ‘I presume you mean my first solo performance,’ she said, hoping the class wouldn’t notice her blushing. Stupid! I’m the virtuoso...can’t believe I’m acting like a shy debutante. She had reluctantly agreed to run her first Violin Masterclass; having once been a former student at the Royal Academy of Music herself. She longed for the Masterclass Q & A session to end. She was in her element performing in front of an audience, and even coaching the students, but transformed into a bundle of nerves and quirky gestures when she was alone talking to groups of people. In fact, Isabelle loathed public speaking of any kind. Heart racing, she took a deep breath and delved into the recesses of her memory. It was an intoxicating visit. ‘No artist ever forgets their first major professional performance, and I’m no different. It was at The Royal Albert Hall, playing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, and it was a huge success for me because it was the launch pad of my career as a soloist.’

Visualizing Isabelle feels settled until Virginia’s story progresses, as in the synopsis: ‘Ever since her emergence as a child prodigy Isabelle Bryant has only ever known one love – her violin. Then, aged 32, at the height of her career, the unthinkable happens. What do you do when everything depends on the dexterity of your fingers, only to lose them in a horrifying instant? Devastated and vulnerable in the aftermath of her accident, Isabelle struggles to find new meaning in her life. Her perilous path of self-discovery leads her to Vienna, the historic city home of her music hero, Beethoven; and into the arms of the man who will become her lover. As her personal journey progresses, she takes on new opportunities and has to face disturbing revelations, all of which have the power to make her or break her – all over again.’

Compelling, eloquently written, THE VIRTUOSO makes a significant impact – the note of the arrival of a very promising novelist. Grady Harp, June 18
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.