Tracy Farr has written a complex and lyrical novel about the life of an Australian musician who becomes an early exponent of the theremin. Starting out as a pianist and violinist, Lena Gaunt is introduced to the theremin, and becomes an early advocate and excellent performer of that instrument.
The reader is introduced to Gaunt’s life history through a series of flashbacks, which are a consequence of a young filmmaker choosing her as a subject for a documentary film. We witness Lena abandoning her career for an extended love affair with a talented painter.
As the film proceeds, the author skillfully provides a window into the existence of an almost forgotten musician, rescued from obscurity through a single performance that fascinates the filmmaker.
The protagonist lives variously in Europe and Australia, and the author offers colorful descriptions of her life in the musical mainstream, and later as a lonely and mostly forgotten heroin addict. More than she has ever imagined, the filmmaker unveils the tragic story of Gaunt’s life.
There are some puzzles that the book doesn’t reveal. How could someone so dedicated to her music give it up entirely “for love?” The author leaves it up to the reader to answer this question. Whether the reader sees this ambiguity as a positive or negative is an open question. At times as a reviewer I found myself mystified, while at other times it made perfect sense to me.
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