Sunday, 4 July 2010

Book of the Week and Bibliography - Barbara Trapido, Sex and Stravinsky

Barbara Trapido could not be described as a prolific author. Sex and Stravinskyis her seventh novel since Brother of the More Famous Jack was published in 1982. Nonetheless, all have been well received and Sex and Stravinsky is no exception. Trapido was born in 1941 in Capetown, South Africa, and she studied at the University of Natal, gaining a BA in 1963, before moving to London. She taught at a school in Hackney and a remand centre in Durham, before becoming a full-time writer in 1970. She currently lives with her family in Oxford.

All Trapido's novels feature a dominating, unconventional older man. Brother of the More Famous Jack (1982)  was followed by Noah's Ark (1984). Temples of Delight (1990) was shortlisted for the Sunday Express Book of the Year award and a sequel, Juggling, was published in 1994. The Travelling Hornplayer (1998) was her second book to be shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award. Her previous novel, Frankie and Stankie, was published in 2003. It tells the story of two sisters growing up in South Africa in the 1950s.

Sex and Stravinskywas reviewed by all of the major newspapers very positively. It seems like a solid piece of literary fiction from a well-respected mid-career author who has yet to make a breakthrough in one of the major literary prizes, but with this novel has an outside chance of doing so. No signed copies available so far as I can see, but worth keeping an eye out for.

“The time is 1995, but everyone has a past. Brilliant Australian Caroline can command everyone except her own ghoulish mother, which means that things aren't easy for Josh and Zoe, her husband and twelve year old daughter. Josh has bizarre origins in a small South African mining town, but now teaches mime in Bristol. Zoe reads girls' ballet books and longs for ballet lessons; a thing denied her until, on a school French exchange, she meets a runaway boy in a woodland hut. Meanwhile, on the east coast of Africa, Hattie Thomas, Josh's first love, has taken to writing girls' ballet books from the turret of her fabulous house - that's when she can carve out the space between the forceful presence of Herman and her crosspatch daughter Cat who, after some illicit snooping, is secretly planning a make-or-break essay on mask dancers in Mali. Hattie wakes from a dream of Stravinsky's Pulcinella and asks herself about the composer, 'Do his glasses look sexy?'. His glasses are just like Josh's glasses from two decades earlier. From far and wide, they are all drawn together; drawn to Jack's place. Or is he Jacques? Or Giacomo?Beautiful, mysterious Jack, the one-time backyard housemaid's child who, having journeyed via Mozambique and Senegal to Milan, is back exactly where he started - only not for long. In its mix of people from different spheres, the book throws up the complexity, cruelty and richness of the global world while, as a sequence of personal stories, it comes together like a dance; a masquerade in which things are not always what they seem.”


Brother of the More Famous Jack; Gollancz, 1982 – less than £10.
Noah's Ark; Gollancz, 1984 – less than £15.
Temples of Delight; Michael Joseph, 1990 – less than £10.
Juggling; Hamish Hamilton, 1994 – less than £10.
The Travelling Hornplayer; Hamish Hamilton, 1998 – less than £10.
Frankie & Stankie; Bloomsbury, 2003 – less than £10.
Sex and Stravinsky; Blooksbury, 2010 - cover price or less.

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