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Grace Notes
BERNARD MACLAVERTY

Grace Notes by Bernard MacLaverty
16 reviews (1997) (288p)
Man Booker Prize Finalist

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Book Description
The luminous novel by one of the finest living Irish writers, which Brian Moore has praised as "in every sense a triumph ... moving throughout and ending triumphantly and joyously in its own special music." Shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Prize and winner of the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year Award, Grace Notes is a compact and altogether masterful portrait of a woman composer and the complex interplay between her life and her art. With superb artistry and startling intimacy, it brings us into the life of Catherine McKenna-estranged daughter, vexed lover, new mother, and musician making her mark in a male-dominated field. It is a book that the Virginia Woolf of A Room of One's Own would instantly understand.


Amazon.com Review
Composer Catherine McKenna has more of a gift for music than happiness, but she has long been driven beyond harmonies (musical and personal) that her Belfast family can understand. Bernard MacLaverty renders both sides of the equation: Catherine's feminist and aesthetic striving and her mother's more traditional grasp; it's hard not to sympathize with Mrs. McKenna's impatient rejoinder, "You don't cope with music, you listen to it."

Grace Notes, MacLaverty's first novel since Cal, is as much about Irish identity--and possibility--as it is about art. Catherine's newest piece, a mass, includes the huge drums Protestants play in parades. "It was a scary sound--like thunder. Like the town was under a canopy of dark noise." Though her fellow Catholics see the drums as instruments of threat, Catherine is determined to integrate them into her composition.

Her return to Belfast for her father's funeral brings back several ghosts, among them an influential professor who spoke of grace notes--"the notes between the notes." This novel is full of such instances, wry snatches of conversation and unforgettable observations: the new Chinese restaurant that has had to offer chips to stay in business, or the pub that's "on a slight hill. When dogs pissed at the door the dark lines ran diagonally to the gutter." These transcend the occasional passage in which MacLaverty tries too hard to see into the life and rhythms of a female artist. The final section, however, a live radio concert of Catherine's piece, is a triumph for both woman composer and male author.


Bernard MacLaverty Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 1  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 1  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 0  
National Book Award Wins 0  
National Book Award Nominations 0  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 1 Grace Notes ·  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 0  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award

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