Counterpoint is the musical relationship of melodic lines playing independently but forming a harmonic whole. There couldn't be a more fitting title for this book. A story with many independent tales, but coming together in one grand finale.
It is very difficult to review this story due to it's complexity and length which is by no means a criticism but a complement as it stands out from the normal trope of m/m stories. Intricate, complex, intriguing, thought provoking and well balanced. Just like a musical score itself.
The main character in this story is Dylan a musical genius discovered very early while still in high school, but also obnoxious and arrogant. It's about his life's trails and tribulations of becoming a recognised composer. He has two loves in his life, Laurence a teacher at his college and Geoffrey a violin prodigy. When Dylan first meets Laurence it is at college and due to Laurence seeing the talent in the rough diamond and taking him under his wing. Over a nimber of years the relationship flourishes into an intense love. The only way they could do this was due to several circumstances, of which i won't go into here, but they both end up living in Paris. Here they lived out their dream and built a perfect home for themselves. During this period Paris was the more liberal city compared to Victorian London with it's conservative values."Well, to put it delicately, they insulted each other's mother, father, ancestry, religion, and the state of his bowels. You really need to learn French; English is so hopelessly civilised. The French can say the most divinely vile things and it sounds like poetry."
It is while being in France Dylan meets for the first time Geoffrey who is studying violin with Adler Schonberg who is a world renowned violin player. He meets these two at a party hosted by Ivy an American with loads of money and a great sponsor of the arts. Geoffrey is from Romanichel origin and has had a very different childhood to that of Dylan of which we learn more about gradually during the book.
Then a fatal accident means that Laurence is taken from Dylan and here I cried, no I'm not ashamed to admit it, the writing was so beautiful I could feel the pain, anger, hurt and greaving that Dylan was going through. However, this book is written in two parts which is a wonderful concept. Ivy gets Dylan back on his feet and gradually starts to come to terms with Laurence's death. He then decides to return to London. Shutting one chapter on his life and starting a new one. As the old saying goes,"It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.""TIME. Dylan wondered how the pasing of something without form, sound or taste could so pervadeeverything. TIME. He wishes he knew how to beat it, kick it, take out his anger upon it."
Back in London Dylan is getting to grips with his life more and more everyday and he visits his friend Schonberg who is now ailing in health. However, his understudy Geaoffrey takes care of his every need. Schonberg wants Dylan to write a concerto for Geoffrey. At the beginning the artistic animosity is there, but then grows it a rivalry and then into attraction. Dylan finds himself in love again, but at the beginning it is difficult for him still to let completely go of Laurence's memory.
Schonberg's brother and sister-in-law come to visit and while they are there he dies. This is their chance to get at Schonberg's money and concoct a plan which leaves Geoffrey going to jail. Here the unfairness of it all was hideous. Geoffrey due to his gypsy origins is treated like a second class citizen despite his talent and ends up doing hard labour. Dylan does not give up trying to prove his innocence and calls upon an old school friend, Rob who is a barrister. They manage to prove his innocence and Geoffrey is released.
After all this, Dylan is still struggling to get recognition as a composer and in a moment of inspiration starts work on his breakthrough concerto, Prometheus. He writes for Geoffrey to play but still has to convince the powers that be in the orchestra to let Geoffrey play it. All's well that ends well and eventually due to some influential friends the concerto is played with Geoffrey as the soloist upon request of HRH The Princess of Wales and the deserved recognition is arrives.
This book is incredibly multi-facetted and I loved it on manyl levels. First the time it was set in causing a whole set of problems that we don't even consider today. Having to be totally secret about your relationship or when some people knew they really had be close and trusted friends. Secondly ,the trials and tribulations of dealing with what life throws at you. Dylan is heart broken after he loses Laurence, but he finds love again and realises that life must go on and never to give up. Thirdly, Dylan never gives up in believing in himself as a composer. He was sometimes tempestuous, arrogant, irritating and obnoxious, but his belief in himself and his tenacity against all odds and despite what people said he never gave up and in the end got the recognition he deserved. Fourthly, I loved the character of Ivy, although a secondary character once she appeared on the scene she stayed a constant like a guardian angel, always supportive and always believing in Dylan. This book introduces many characters, but they all have their significant role to play and contribute to the whole, just like the musical strucutre and theory of counterpoint.
All in all an enthralling epic, that kept me riveted from beginning to end. Packed full of emotion, trials and tribulations, but all coming together in one grand finale.
All the way through this book I did have a constant earworm when reading about Geoffrey's violin playing and this was the violinist Joshua Bell playing the theme tune from the film Ladies in Lavender by Nigel Hess. However, if I was to suggest a playlist while reading this book it would be this;
1) Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E Minor
2) Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major
3) Sibelius Violin Concerto in D Minor
4) Schumann Violin Concerto in D Minor
Looks like I have thing going for German composers I guess. Spot the odd one out - lol!