The Travelling Hornplayer, by Barbara Trapido

A description of this book could easily make it sound like Hotel World: the book describes events surrounding the accidental death of a young girld called Lydia, and is told by different characters who each have their own perspective on the story. In both books, the full picture doesn't appear until you've read the whole thing. But the writing style is quite different, and even though I read the two books within a month of each other, I don't think I'd confuse them.

Portions of the book are told by Ellen (Lydia's sister), Jonathan (a family friend), and Stella, who is Lydia's sister's roommate. Each of these is more or less pre-occupied with their own feelings and so is affected in different ways by the death. Again, it's a bit Jonathan Coe-like in that you see the same event described from the perspective of the different players, but it's not until the second or third description that you realise its significance.

I think this is a more "conventional" novel than Hotel World; there are no tricks played with writing styles, and I found it a more engaging read: where Hotel World was impressive, this book was involving. Lydia's death acts as a catalyst for the book: although parts of the book are concerned with her sister and family coming to terms with their loss, another interlinked storyline is that of Stella, who has to cope with dyslexia, HIV and unexpected pregnancy, and doesn't find out about Lydia's death until the end of the book, even though she turns out to have had a part to play in it. Stella's story would be enough for a novel in itself, but dovetails in to the rest of the book really well.

Worth looking out for more by this author.

Completed : 07-Jun-2004

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