Sight Reading: A Novel

( 2 )


On a Boston street one warm spring day, Hazel and Remy spot each other for the first time in years. Though their meeting might seem insignificant, Remy, a gifted violinist, is married to the composer Nicholas Elko—once the love of Hazel's life. It has been twenty years since Remy, an ambitious conservatory student; Nicholas, a wunderkind on the cusp of success and its challenges; and the beautiful and fragile Hazel first met. From Europe to America, from conservatory life to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, they ...

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Sight Reading: A Novel

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On a Boston street one warm spring day, Hazel and Remy spot each other for the first time in years. Though their meeting might seem insignificant, Remy, a gifted violinist, is married to the composer Nicholas Elko—once the love of Hazel's life. It has been twenty years since Remy, an ambitious conservatory student; Nicholas, a wunderkind on the cusp of success and its challenges; and the beautiful and fragile Hazel first met. From Europe to America, from conservatory life to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, they have forged crisscrossing paths of thrills and doubts, wonders and betrayals, each discovering how the quest to create something real and true can lead to deep personal revelations. As Remy and Hazel find themselves once more linked by shifting fate, Sight Reading explores the mysteries of intuition and perception while unspooling a transporting story of marriage, family, and long-held secrets.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her second novel (after Russian Winter), Kalotay returns again to a rarified artistic world where the pursuit of art and beauty clashes with the less noble realities of human interaction. Beautiful Hazel and her talented husband Nicholas Elko are itinerant newlyweds, following his composing career across Europe with their small daughter, when they alight in Boston for a guest conductorship at the conservatory there. But it’s not just another stop on the world tour that’s continually burnished Nicholas’s renown; that the couple’s stay in Boston will change the course of their lives. Remy, a second violin with frizzled hair and untrammeled desires, is drawn in by the conductor’s magnetism. Nicholas doesn’t fight the attraction, and soon leaves Hazel to marry the younger, less beautiful woman. The story follows this triangle from 1987 to 2007 through the insular world of classical music in Boston. Their ties complicate and enrich each character’s life, raising questions about the price of beauty, the power of art, and the shifting nature of identity. While the story eventually loses steam, Kalotay writes elegantly and ably about music and emotion, drafting a moving meditation on the sacrifices made for art and the mysteries of the heart. Agent: Dorian Karchmar, WME Entertainment. (June)
Kirkus Reviews
Kalotay's soulful second novel chronicles the collateral damage three classical musicians inflict on the people who love them. Merging two inherently incompatible modes of expression, writing and music, presents a formidable challenge--one Kalotay rises to admirably here. Even tone-deaf readers will readily grasp the technical aspects of violinist Remy's struggles to attain the first chair that seems forever beyond her reach. Likewise, readers will understand why composer and conductor Nicholas, although he attains a certain level of fame and prosperity (enough to incite the envy of his best friend and colleague Yoni), can never complete his masterwork. Nicholas, Remy and Yoni all teach or study at a prestigious Boston conservatory, and Remy will later play with the Boston Symphony. In their insular world, impulses that defy musical expression are, too often, deployed to wreak havoc in others' lives. Remy's infatuation with Nicholas breaks up his marriage to art historian Hazel, and though Remy will help co-parent Jessie, child of Hazel and Nicholas, her desire for a child of her own will lead to a disastrous interlude with Yoni that will prove life-altering for all three musicians. The book revisits the characters at 10-year intervals and thus becomes a meditation on aging, regret and forgiveness. The plainspoken prose is the ideal accompaniment to these lives, but the characterization of the women is more detailed and grounded. Nicholas' passivity--he is more acted upon than active in shaping his own destiny--and solipsism--the way he can inflict hurt on Remy and Hazel without, seemingly, noticing or caring--is particularly confounding: Why is he the focus of so much yearning? By the time Hazel and Remy realize that Nicholas is an exaltation of style over substance, each is compelled to delude herself that the years they invested in him were not wasted. Unfortunately, just when the motifs of cognitive dissonance and self-deception are about to deliver a fitting climax, the piece resolves with an anodyne coda of unearned redemption.
Boston Globe
Kalotay “takes great pains to get the little details right, both musical and geographical, and the resulting read is engaging and often insightful.... [S]urprising and satisfying...with some delightfully vivid writing.”
Toronto Star
“Kalotay’s writing is clear and evocative…. [She] infuses each of the characters with total believability stemming from her understanding of classical music and her perceptions of human nature. She is a very wise writer…and her brilliant intuitions are augmented by her lyrical writing.”
New York Journal of Books
“Ms. Kalotay manages to capture the fleeting exultation that performers feel whenever they play. It is as if she has been on stage, bow in hand, ready to make or break her career with a single piece of music:.”
Edith Pearlman
“This entertaining novel follows a group of musicians through twenty years of disappointments and betrayals; lusts, regrets, afflictions, and delusions; rehearsals, recombinations, and revelations.”
“The characters about which Kalotay writes are deeply flawed, but also talented and fascinating to read about.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Kalotay’s thoughtful insights on artistic endeavors add depth to this graceful book.”
Booklist (starred review)
“Kalotay celebrates art . . . in prose that is brisk and concise as well as sensuous andsumptuous . . . A fictive musical and familial feast.”
Tom Perrotta
“Set in the hothouse world of classical music, this wise, elegant novel maps the fallout from a passionate affair over the course of two decades. . . . Daphne Kalotay writes with grace and authority, paying equal attention to the artistic and emotional lives of her characters.”
Nancy Richler
“SIGHT READING is at once a compelling story about love, loss and music in four interwoven lives, and an insightful exploration of the sources and expression of creativity. The results are compulsively readable, memorable and wise.”
Library Journal
Because Kalotay wrote so affectingly about the complicated lives of artists in Russian Winter, it's good to see her turn to the subject again, though here she focuses on music rather than dance. A violin student at a conservatory in Boston, Remy knows she's good—but perhaps not good enough for a solo career. Still, meeting the conservatory orchestra's new conductor, Nicholas Elko, refreshes her pleasure in performing. An up and coming composer, the somewhat distracted Nicholas is married to perfect, adoring Hazel and has a young daughter, but the cozy family is torn apart when Nicholas and Remy begin an affair. Soon, Nicholas and Remy are the married couple, and Hazel is on the outside wondering what happened. We then watch the protagonists thread their way through the mundane concerns of establishing careers, raising a child, and dealing with the betrayals of love. VERDICT The narrative sometimes gets too absorbed in the protagonists' everyday lives—Kalotay really shines when discussing musicians making music—but she effectively shows us how performing artists live. Much as we ourselves do, except they then get to create something gorgeous. [See Prepub Alert, 12/7/12.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062246936
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/21/2013
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,566,273
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Daphne Kalotay

Daphne Kalotay is the author of the award-winning novel Russian Winter, which has been published in twenty languages, and the fiction collection Calamity and Other Stories. She has received fellowships from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo, and has taught at Boston University, Skidmore College, Grub Street, and Middlebury College. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2014


    Tell Cyrus to go to 'Signals' result two.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2014



    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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