Adrianne Geffel: A Fiction

Norton. Sept. 2020. 240p. ISBN 9780393634228. $25.95. F
DEBUT The eponymous heroine of this debut novel from Hajdu (Lush Life), music critic for the Nation, is a pianist of abrasive originality and persuasive power who hears music playing constantly in her head and shares it with the world. Adrianne grows up humming yet reacts violently whenever she hears other music played—it clashes with her own music—and after puzzling family and friends in her small town briefly ends up at Juilliard. Soon, she’s downtown New York’s “new Queen of Bleak Chic,” but emotional reconnection with an old friend who truly cares for her makes her change direction, shocking acolytes, and vanish before a key concert. The story unfolds as oral history, delivered mostly by those who celebrate their stake in her—her clueless parents, a controlling self-styled boyfriend—resulting in a portrait that’s as much about the exploitation of the gifted as it is about the gift of music, of the artist’s exterior situation as it is of the artist’s interior world. Hajdu is excellent at articulating the vitality of Geffel’s music while leaving what it actually sounds like to our imagination.
VERDICT A reverberant and eye-opening portrait of an artist going her own way and finally saving herself; highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 3/11/20.]

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