“Leonard Bernstein said, ‘Music is the only art which does not require the censorship of the brain before reaching the heart.’” – A Minor
“When a talent can reach into the heart of an individual, whether listener, performer or reader, he/she has succeeded. For talent, given to those fortunate, is a gift to be shared.” Booktalk with Eileen
Title: A Minor, a Novel of Love, Music & Memory
Author: Margaret Ann Philbrick
Genre: Coming of Age, Literary Fiction
Published by: Koehler Books
Published Date: June 1, 2014
Synopsis: Clive Serkin, a teenage piano prodigy, seeks victory at the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow, and enlists the help of world-renowned pianist Clare Cardiff. She becomes his mentor and teacher, and even though she is more than twice his age, Clive finds himself falling in love with her. After Clare is diagnosed with early-onset dementia, Clare’s estranged husband Nero takes her away from Clive to pursue further medical testing. Clive is faced with the challenge of traveling to Moscow and performing at the competition without his beloved mentor. Ultimately, he must discover if the music they share is enough to keep them together.
My Thoughts: Clare Cardiff, a beautiful, talented woman of 50, was the pivotal character in this rather emotionally complex read. She touched two lives most deeply, her husband, Nero, and her piano student, Clive Serkin, who was destined to win the much coveted Tchaikovsky Piano Competition, held in the Great Hall of Moscow every four years. Fictitious main characters, the setting is authentic. It was apparent that author Margaret Ann Philbrick did her homework researching on many levels.
Nero, Clare’s husband, after 30 years of marriage and not able to tap into his own talent of pottery making, had asked for a divorce. Nero comes to the conclusion life with or without Clare is intolerable. Nero, I don’t believe is healthy mentally blames Clare for not being able to carry their babe to term. Full of hurt and jealousy, he is in the intolerable position of not really being a partner within the marriage – just a chauffeur. But for those 30 years he had served her well.
Clare escapes into her music, being a person who knows many languages and commits her music to memory easily. Clare turns to Nero when she needs him, when she finds she has severe medical issues. Nero takes her back to the farm and further testing. He cares, yet has a volatile, emotional temper which very often verges on abuse. After Clare left him, he began morose and had a macabre attachment to a piece of pottery he created. Suffice it to say, their relationship was a painful, complicated one.
Clare meets Clive Serkin when she separates from Nero for a time to give them a chance to understand what they want. Just 17, a Jew who has wandered from his roots somewhat, lives in a Jewish community and whose father is a famous symphony director. Rather than continue with her concert circuit with Nero, she settles into a university setting to teach piano.
Upon meeting Clive, they connect, both musically and spiritually. She decides to pass the wand to this talented young man, teaching him what she knows. The connection grows into a close friendship, bonding through the talent and love of playing piano. She instills in Clive something he had lacked in his interpretation of music previously. And once he connected with this concept, he had people weep listening to him play for his hands spoke the contents of his heart.
Clare loved him as a son she never had. Clive loved her as a young boy on the cusp of truly being a man, yet innocently. It was very sweet and tender worthy of many tears. Again, the author depicted this relationship perfectly–innocent with the purist of love.
Clive had wonderful family support Clive. Spiritually, his old teacher and the Rabbi and yes, even Clare balance what this young man needed.
One point I haven’t mentioned is Clare is faced with losing all, she has been diagnosed with early on-set dementia. To a concert pianist this is devastating.
Are you an aspiring concert pianist or an artist of another media? You will love this story.
I know you will enjoy this book. It is not the typical read. As I write this review two days after I’ve finished it, I shed tears for the absolutely emotional rollercoaster Clive endured and as a reader I did, too. I connected most closely with all these characters. I will always remember this wonderful book. Ms. Philbrick, I bow to your inspiration and handling of a most delicate story.
About the Author: Margaret Philbrick is an author, gardener and teacher who desires to plant seeds in hearts. Margaret has a B.A. in English Literature from Trinity University in San Antonio Tx.and a Masters in Teaching from National Louis University. She teaches writing and literature to children and teens at The Greenhouse School and H.S.U., both of which provide supplemental classical education to the home-school community. She is actively involved in the fulfillment of God’s vision at Church of the Resurrection and the Redbud Writers Guild where she serves on the board of both organizations. Her first book, Back to the Manger, is a holiday gift book she created with her mother, an oil painter. You can find Margaret in her garden digging in the dirt or writing poetry and you can connect with her on-line via her website at: http://www.margaretphilbrick.com.