Author: Vikram Seth
Paperback: 496 pages
Publisher: Phoenix House
Publication Date: 8 April 1999
Genre: Fictional Novel
“A chance sighting on a bus; a letter which should never have been read; a pianist with a secret that touches the heart of her music” An Equal Music is a book about love, about the love of a woman lost and found and lost again; it is a book about music and how the love of music can run like a passionate fugue through a life. It is the story of Michael, of Julia, and of the love that binds them.
A recurring element throughout the plot is the pair's performance of Beethoven's Piano Trio Opus 1 No.3, which they first perform in their college days.
An equal music stresses on passion for music and is set up against European backdrop. Much of the story takes place in London, although Vienna and Venice become central as well. The characters in the book evaporates the sense of loneliness and intense loss in their lives because of their personal experiences.
The plot concentrates on the elite group of musicians playing for elite audience. The novel does lie on heavy themes of psychology, intense love, maturity and growth in the protagonist’s character; However, the momentary lapses of humour element gives it a little comedic relief. For example: Piers, the quartet’s brilliant, very intense first violinist has the habit of getting into very deep relationships with unsuitable men.
Seth dedicates the book An Equal Music to his friend Philippe Honore, as the idea occurred to him in the companionship of this man. The novel is story of a musician, Micheal Holden and his emotional attachment to Julia and his violin.
In An Equal Music Seth adopts the first person narrative mode, in contrast to the ‘all-wise’ mode that he adopted in his other novels. Seth explains why he chose to write in this mode:
Firstly he understood that it was “notoriously difficult” to write about an acceptable art form in an expository way, and therefore the only way to get into music through words was to describe the thoughts of someone actually a musician himself.
About the Author:
Born in 1952 in Calcutta, India, Vikram Seth was educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, Stanford University and Nanjing University.
He has travelled widely and lived in Britain, California, India and China. His first novel, The Golden Gate: A Novel in Verse (1986), describes the experiences of a group of friends living in California. His acclaimed epic of Indian life, A Suitable Boy (1993), won the WH Smith Literary Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best Book). Set in India in the early 1950s, it is the story of a young girl, Lata, and her search for a husband. An Equal Music (1999) is the story of a violinist haunted by the memory of a former lover. Vikram Seth is also the author of a travel book, From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet (1983), an account of a journey through Tibet, China and Nepal that won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, and a libretto, Arion and the Dolphin: A Libretto (1994), which was performed at the English National Opera in June 1994, with music by Alec Roth. His poetry includes Mappings (1980), The Humble Administrator's Garden (1985), winner of the Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Asia), and All You Who Sleep Tonight: Poems (1990). His children's book, Beastly Tales from Here and There (1992), consists of ten stories about animals told in verse.
Vikram Seth's latest works include Two Lives (2005), a memoir of the marriage of his great uncle and aunt, and Summer Requiem (2015), a book of poems.