Monday, February 22, 2010

Barbara Hall's The Music Teacher ~ Reviewed

The Music Teacher
Barbara Hall
Pub. Date: February 2009
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Format: Hardcover, 292pp
ISBN-13: 9781565124639


In The Music Teacher, a penetrating and richly entertaining look into the heart and mind of a woman who has failed both as an artist and as a wife, Barbara Hall, award-winning creator and writer of such hit television series as Judging Amy and Joan of Arcadia, tells the story of a violinist who has accepted the limitations of her talent and looks for the casual satisfaction of trying to instill her passion for music in others. She gets more than she bargains for, however, when a young girl named Hallie enters her life. For here at last is the real thing: someone with the talent and potential to be truly great. In her drive to shape this young girl into the artist the teacher could never be, she makes one terrible mistake. As a result she is forced to reevaluate her whole life and come to terms with her future.

Hall has crafted a thoroughly engrossing novel that examines the pitfalls of failure and holds up a mirror to the face of a culture that places success and achievement above all else.


Barbara Hall is an artist who works in descriptions. She writes poetically about music and art, feelings and sensations, loss and sorrow, and she left me wanting to read more of her work. Her characters are complex and a group of musical snobs who fight amongst themselves and struggle to be great in the most mediocre of settings, a music store. Egos flair, and day-to-day details create drama and angst as they all try to find meaning and life in their passion for this music hunger that has stolen so much from each of them.

Pearl is the storyteller and main character. One who starts out as an embittered would-have-been and slowly blooms into someone who hasn't fully given up on what could be. She is both likable, sympathetic and frustrating, as are her music store friends and students.

Hall writes with a deep spirituality that is complicated and thought provoking. A spirituality that permeates every aspect of the characters' lives yet leaves them hungry for something outside of themselves and their tired lives.

Literary fiction lovers will be the most likely to appreciate Hall's The Music Teacher. General fiction fans might find the read a little slow. Younger readers might not appreciate the adult struggles. There is language and sexuality that borders on R-rated should you be searching for content details.

I will be reading more of Hall's novels.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

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