It all starts with the death of Martijn van Vliet's wife. His grief-stricken young daughter, Lea, cuts herself off from the world, lost in the darkness of grief. Then she hears the unfamiliar sound of a violin playing in the hall of a train station, and she is brought back to life. Transfixed by a busker playing Bach, Lea emerges from her mourning, vowing to learn the instrument. And her father, witnessing this delicate spark, promises to do everything and anything in his power to keep her happy.
Lea grows into an extraordinary musical talent--her all-consuming passion leads her to become one of the finest players in the country--but as her fame blossoms, her relationship with her father withers. Unable to keep her close, he inadvertently pushes Lea deeper and deeper into this newfound independence and, desperate to hold on to his daughter, Martin is driven to commit an act that threatens to destroy them both.
This is a short book, but nevertheless one that took me a while to get into - the plot is immediately filled with two strong voices - and as a reader it took me a good few pages to adjust to the tone and timbre overall. However, once in, this is a book that grips the reader tightly - racing them swiftly through the plot like a fever dream. We've all heard and read about the tragic and passionate lives of artists gripped by their music - of the infamous "27" club that so many musicians end up joining, as well as the painful, tragic life of someone like Jacqueline Du Pre.
Mercier captures that angst and drive - turning his story into an almost psychological thriller - the reader has a vague idea as to the story of these characters (Lea) especially, will end - but he takes them on a fascinating journey to get to that point.
Telling the story from the point of view of two men - Lea's father Martijn Van Vliet and Adrian Herzog, a man he travels with, allows Mercier to cleverly relax on the intensity at times - allowing the tales of these two men to thread into the main plot in an extremely complimentary manner. It's the skilled balance of light and shade that prevents this book from coming too dark and gloomy, and it's testament to the author that the strands are just as compelling as each other.
For the main plot , watching the desperation grow as Lea becomes more and more obsessed by her music is worryingly irresistible, Mercier's prose almost magnetic in how deeply it pulls the reader in, helped ably by an excellent translation by Shaun Whiteside
A rapid ride of a book that gets deep under the reader's skin -Lea is a read that's both heart-racing and haunting. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.