Music to My Eyes | The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton

five stars + favourited

The Rehearsal is a literary novel that deals with the loss of innocence, the reinvention of oneself and revelations of the human psyche. However, it is far from boring or overly philosophical. Each pages gifts upon you a new way of looking at something, or an explanation of a happening that you didn't realise that you needed all the while managing to keep you engaged and glued to it's pages.

It follows three adolescent girls who can occasionally talk as though they are 40, their saxophone teacher who seems to take immeasurable joy in the insecurities of others, and a college aged boy who is really nothing remarkable. We follow them throughout the entire book, so it is very much character based.

The first chapter was, to say the least, difficult for me to read. It was overtly sexual and dramatic to a degree where it was not needed. Before you dismiss this statement as an exaggeration or me as a prude, let me quote some lines to you.

(1) The clarinet is a black and silver sperm, and if you love this sperm very much it will one day grow into a saxophone. 

Both lines are unnecessary, and add nothing to the story other than shock value. I suppose it does give the readers an introduction to the intolerable character that is the saxophone teacher, but there is plenty more material where we could have deduced that from. All in all, the first chapter did nothing but make me slightly uncomfortable.

It made me uncomfortable to the extent that I almost considered putting it down which, quite frankly, would have been a complete waste of money seeing as how I had gotten this shipped half way around the world. After that, the rest of the chapter seemed extremely pretentious and looking back at it, I'm not sure why I continued reading the book with the vigour that I did – however, I'm glad that I managed to make it to chapter 2. If I had stopped, I would have missed out on this gem of a book.

(2) Let me put it this way: a film of soured breast milk clutches at your daughter like a shroud.

It can at times get confusing about whether or not the scenes with the high school girls, are being played by actors or not. Their mothers are constantly being referenced as a singular person, and the point of this must have passed completely over my head. Supposedly one woman is effectively playing three different mothers. It could be seen as the saxophone teacher's utter indifference for the mothers, although it's still very confusing.

The three girls, the saxophone teacher's students, quite often regal their teacher with stories of their everyday lives. The teacher refers to these stories as performances. Which, in a way, is quite an apt description. Apparently the lighting changes, their voices swell with the music and the teacher is simply in the audience. I'm sure that this was simply meant to parallel the theatre aspect of the book or to demonstrate how the characters are each playing their own little roles in life, however it is a little odd in the context of a music lesson.

Remember that anybody who is clever enough to set you free is clever enough to enslave you.

However, those were the only negative aspects of the book. The rest of the book, after you get past the first chapter, is amazing. This book is primarily about characters, so I can't quite describe what happens to you because there is so much inner turmoil and revelation that the plot takes a seat, but I can say that it's definitely worth the read.

Despite those two questionable quotes in the beginning, the writing is superb although most of it is quite unquotable. Not because it's lewd in any sense, but because there is so much brilliant writing that it can be hard to choose which lines or phrases to omit and sometimes the writing simply wouldn't make sense without the context. If you generally read young adult, this might take you a little longer to read than what you're used to. It certainly did for me. However, it wasn't so much so that I didn't understand it, but rather that it took a longer time to fully appreciate the writing.

Gaining control isn't the exciting part. Sleeping with a minor isn't exciting because you get to boss them around. It's exciting because you're risking so much. And taking a risk is exciting because of the possibility that you might lose, not the possibility that you might win.

If you're averse to jokes made by a scummy dad that indicate pedophelia, reading about student / teacher relationships and prose that can at times take a while to digest; please don't read this book.

If you're interested in lgbtq+ representation in the form of 3 plus lesbians, interesting ways at looking at things we do on an everyday basis and theatre / music; please read this book.


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