Review: Nancy Young – Strum

Nancy Young
Following the sounds of a music only he can hear (and the only thing he can hear), a talented woodcarver finds, and crafts, two beautiful guitars that play by themselves. This isn’t fantasy though – it’s a realistic novel for someone who has played older violins – they gain a life of their own over time.
Something on the blurb on this novel suggests that it unfolds on a backdrop of war and religious differences, but those were the minor things compared to the people. It is the interactions of the people across the generations, and the failures of all humans in one way or another, that makes the bulk of the text.
The author fails to allow the reader to use their imagination. The author doesn’t trust her audience to come up with the right details, and instead lapses into long descriptions of things happening and feelings that could have been shown. There were also so many analogies that I could easily lose track of where I was! For example:
“All heads and eyes turned to the main attraction next to the man, a vision in white luminescence like the first blanketing of snow on a virgin landscape, whose demurely downcast eyes lead all eyes below to the voloptuous, precipitacy draped bust-line where a thin line of moss green velvet ribbon delineated the fashionably cinched Empire waist while majestically lifting two wipe winter melon-like breasts, forcing them skyward.”
In addition, the narrative is disjointed and confusing. I couldn’t find a plot line, only the discontinuous chapters told from various perspectives and times. My unfamiliarity with the geographical locations only compounded my confusion. I didn’t feel the changes between continents because I was too preoccupied with trying to remember which character was related to the others.
What this novel was good for was re-broadening the variety of words that I have in my vocabulary, Sometimes it feels like the author has eaten a thesaurus. Instead I believe this novel is perfect for literature studies – the motif of the guitar, the differences in religion.
I think the author tried to do too much, and cram too much into this novel. I would prefer a chronologcial order, with clearer deliniations between the times and people than just a family tree. But I did like that there was that plan there. The only problem was that I couldn’t remember all the characters’ names…
This is not an uplifting novel, as much as the epilogue likes to suggest it. I found myself regretting getting involved with the characters, because it seemed like there was nothing to be gained from my interactions with the novel.
A disappointment as a fiction novel, but a key text that would benefit from literature studies on its worth. It’s a good addition to any literature buff’s library, and it would make a great text as a university study (if they ever stop promoting the old favourites).

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