Book Review: Sight Reading – Daphne Kalotay

Title: Sight Reading
Author: Daphne Kalotay
ISBN: 9780062246936
Pages: 352
Release Date: May 21, 2013
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

Remy is a second chair violin player in a Boston student orchestra, and she’s surprised to find a new conductor waiting for them one day at rehearsal. Remy is intrigued by Nicholas, and though Nicholas has a wife, Hazel, and young daughter at home, he seems to return the interest. Over the years, the lives of Remy, Nicholas, and Hazel intertwine and their actions affect one another as things inexorably move forward.

Review:

Sight Reading is the story Remy, first and foremost. While Hazel and Nicholas are important characters, it is by far Remy’s self-exploration and introspection that dominate this novel. Remy’s a great character; she’s certainly flawed and makes some decisions the reader might cringe at as the novel progresses, but she’s realistic. Readers will have an easy time sympathizing with her, as she receives everything she wants only to experience a different kind of loss. It’s well done and makes for a thoughtful read.

One of the main themes of Sight Reading involves Remy’s position as the second chair in an orchestra. This means that she’s a very good violin player, but she will never be the best. That’s reserved for the first chair. Remy struggles against this characterization in many areas of her life—she’s young when the novel begins and imagines living a grand and bold life, full of adventure and excitement. It’s only later, as she gets older, that she begins to wonder whether it’s the small, everyday things that should fill our lives. Is it okay to accept that one will never be first chair, to find contentment and even pleasure with being a second chair violinist?

Intertwined with the lives of these three characters is music, and Kalotay treats it well in Sight Reading. The life of a musician is one that many readers romanticize, and Kalotay presents it for the better and worse in this book. It’s interesting to see these glimpses into another world, and it provides a stable backdrop to the ever-changing lives and circumstances of these characters.

Beautifully written, with incredibly flawed but wonderfully realistic characters, Sight Reading is an exploration into change, into love and loss, and into the way we all come together and are connected. It’s very character driven, but the music that frames the novel provides additional depth, as well as a fascinating source of information. It’s a novel that spans different worlds and many different locations in order to offer insight into ourselves and the way we live our lives.

Other books by Daphne Kalotay:

Russian Winter

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