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Grace Notes
Title : Grace Notes
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780393318418
Language : English
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 288

The award-winning Grace Notes is a compact and altogether masterful portrait of a woman composer and the complex interplay between her life and her art. With superb artistry and startling intimacy, it brings us into the life of Catherine McKenna — estranged daughter, vexed lover, new mother, and musician making her mark in a male-dominated field. It is a book that the VirgThe award-winning Grace Notes is a compact and altogether masterful portrait of a woman composer and the complex interplay between her life and her art. With superb artistry and startling intimacy, it brings us into the life of Catherine McKenna — estranged daughter, vexed lover, new mother, and musician making her mark in a male-dominated field. It is a book that the Virginia Woolf of A Room of One's Own would instantly understand.


Grace Notes Reviews

  • Barbara

    The author Bernard MacLaverty was born in Belfast, and lived there until 1975, when he moved to Scotland with his wife and children. This book was shortlisted for the 1997 Booker Prize. I reread this novel as part of a 2017 reread challenge some of my GR friends are doing (or at least talking about). The novel opens with Catherine McKenna returning to Northern Ireland for her father's funeral. She comes from a small unnamed town about 40 miles from Belfast, somewhere near Cookstown. She is the o [...]

  • Tony

    GRACE NOTES. (1997). Bernard MacLaverty. ****. I just discovered this writer. That’s like discovering America in 1493: probably the rest of the world already knew about him. This novel, short-listed for the Booker Prize in 1997, started out to be the best I’d read in a long time, but somehow got lost along the way. It’s the story of Catherine Anne McKenna, a young woman from Northern Ireland who leaves to pursue her dream of becoming a composer – a field famous for its scarcity of women. [...]

  • Cynthia

    Catherine is an Irish woman who is musical. Her parents notice her talent when she’s young and find her a wonderful teacher. She becomes a pianist and a composer. Unfortunately Catherine’s parents also share their conflicted relationship and throw in some Catholic angst. MacLaverty got the musical bits exactly right in my opinion. Music is hard to describe in words yet he did so with excellence. There were several pieces I’d never heard of before and based on his descriptions I’m going t [...]

  • Krista

    Ever wonder how a musician composes? From whence the inspiration comes? This novel offers a glimpse, even as it also narrates the professional and personal challenges of being a (post)modern woman. A lovely, honest, intensely real portrait that ponders questions of life, religion, and art -- particularly the question of where redemption is found or perhaps created.

  • Merilee

    Stunning so far.This book, about a young, Irish composer who mainly lives on an island off Scotland, is absolutely pitch-perfect. I kept having to remind myself that the female narrator was written by a man.

  • Cynthia

    One of those books where you keep saying, "This was written by a MAN?" The portrait of Catherine McKenna, composer, shows the ways her art intersects with the rest of her life. The author knows a lot about post-partum depression and music.

  • Asun

    This was a truly beautiful novel. I am always a bit skeptic about male authors writing delicate experiences such as depression from a woman's point of view (especially if it's postpartum depression) but MacLaverty did a wonderful job telling the story of Catherine.It is very difficult to portray the ups and downs of a mental illness such as depression and the stigma that comes with it, especially as a woman but the way he weaves Catherine's trauma and feelings with her love for music as a healin [...]

  • Alan Swift

    This novel made me want to listen to classical music. It is wonderfully well observed,honest and at times raw. It tells the story of Catherine and how she recalls her young life through her musical composition. The writing is superb and the rhythm of the book pulls the reader along as Catherine comes to terms with her depression and the tensions with her family at home in Ireland.

  • Alex Nye

    I'm cheating slightly with this review as I actually read GRACE NOTES a long time ago - nearly seventeen years, in fact.However, I do remember precisely when and where I read it, and why it was so important to me. GRACE NOTES was the first serious novel I was able to read after having given birth to my second child. I read it on Calgary Beach during a summer vacation on the Isle of Mull. The title itself was significant, as was the content. The heroine of the story has post-natal depression, and [...]

  • Elaine

    I am always skeptical when a male author has a woman protagonist -- and in this case, a woman protagonist who goes through childbirth. But darn if MacLaverty didn't pull it off so well that I had to go back and check that the author really was a man. He captures the relationship between Ireland and Scotland so well, and between the Scottish isles and the mainland cities. I only wished I knew more about musical composition, so I could have followed the protagonist's musical work (composing and pl [...]

  • Tien

    As the book begins, there were some hints of mystery to it. There were times that I got really curious as to Catherine’s current situation is This is one of those books that I picked up without paying too much attention to the blurb and as it happens, it is exactly as described and no more :pUnfortunately, I’m not a very literary minded either so whilst I appreciated some nuances, others I’ve completely missed. I appreciated the triumphant ending note of the novel but can’t help wonder i [...]

  • Sarah

    I liked it. It also broke my heart a little the total lack of effective treatment and support for her depression just reminds me of what I see every day in my work, talking to people about their experiences. What I probably liked the most was the way that it made me think differently about classical music and composition. Such a fascinating feat, to write about music with words, and to do such a beautiful job conveying it. I have been listening to classical music with new ears since finishing th [...]

  • Anne

    Grace Notes was a good book but it jumped around in time a lot, in ways that I did not always enjoy. It turned out to be about postpartum depression as well as musical genius, which was very interesting. I'm glad I stuck it out to the end, which was very interesting, but it was hard for a while.

  • Mary Lou

    Another of the books voted for by members in our local library's Perfect Library List. Such a joy to find so many great books on hand in this display. And this is one. Great storytelling with authoritative insight into both characters and the underlying musicality

  • Marsha Sullivan

    Sentence structure like gunshots, short, rapid. So so story about young woman from Belfast in depression, who writes music.

  • GS Seda

    Bernard MacLaverty is a writer from Northern Ireland who I was not familiar with till I stumbled across “Grace Notes” – a book that has classical music as one of its central themes. I was a little circumspect picking it up to read because I thought - incorrectly as it turned out - that it would be quite intimidating if one is not totally au fait with musical concepts, genres, and symbols. However, as I progressed through its pages, I was happy to discover that the writer has woven a sensit [...]

  • Phil

    I finished reading this deeply moving novel three days ago and since then have been trying to organize my thoughts and reactions into a sort of review.What does the title mean? Catherine, the protagonist, is a musician. Grace notes in music are notes that embellish, but do not affect, the melody line. Having a musical background, and having read this book and thought about it, I am not sure what there is anything that embellishes, but does not affect the story line.Another definition of grace is [...]

  • Jack Deighton

    MacLaverty is from Belfast but moved to Scotland in his thirties. Grace Notes is partly set on Islay, with some scenes in Glasgow. However, Part One occurs entirely in Northern Ireland to where Catherine Anne McKenna is returning to her childhood home for the funeral of her father. She has been estranged from her Catholic parents for years, effectively since leaving home to go to University. They were very strict when she was young, with an embedded sense of right and wrong, and she drifted away [...]

  • Margaret Capozzolo

    Catherine McKenna struggles to pursue her talent of musical composition, a male-dominated field. After graduation from college, she finds herself on a remote Scottish island, immersed in a relationship with a difficult man and the mother of a small child. Eventually, however, with the help of a long-time female friend, she escapes the depression that had overwhelmed her and composes a masterpiece that inculcates the sounds of the Lambeg drums she heard as young woman in Northern Ireland. At the [...]

  • Charlotte Cantrell

    I think I liked it. But it took me a very very long time to read it as i just didn't ever have the urge to pick the thing up. Beautifully written, true realism but ultimately not my thing.

  • Simon

    Art as emancipation, great subtlety from a forgotten age

  • Tonymess

    A composition in itself, equal parts (movements) reflective pieces, opposites at start and end. A symphony of words. Take note of the structure an impressive effort indeed.

  • Purple

    Brilliant. Thoughtful. Awe inspiring.

  • Susan

    Lately I've been turned off by Irish novels about dysfunctional families. Last year I read both The Secret Scripture and The Gathering and felt like both were "same old same old". Not bad but not original either. (The ending of the former was an exception but it was the worst part.)But I really liked Grace Notes. MacLaverty, as Colum McCann's Brooklyn which I also enjoyed, writes from the point of view of a female character and does it well. The main character is Catherine who is a serious and s [...]

  • Beth

    MacLaverty is an extremely great writer. I previously read his novel 'Cal,' which is one of the most tragic stories I've ever encountered. So I was prepared to be thrown into the depths of despair again with this novel, but it was not quite so severely sad. It's sad. But it's more melancholy that it is tragic or despairing. There's no real upside to our protagonists' story other than her overall realization that she loves her daughter and her music. And these loves are not even straightforward o [...]

  • Stephenson Holt

    I am male and I am drawn to books written by males as I feel I will be able to relate to them easier and this was my reason for choosing this book. But.Bernard Mac Laverty has written this book from the perspective of a female, Catherine, and on finishing this novel, a male will feel, rightly or wrongly, that he better knows the female mind. Very descriptive with great observation;- "She noticed that her fists were clenched and she consciously relaxed them, turned her palms upward on her lap to [...]

  • Clive Thompson

    I am male and I am drawn to books written by males as I feel I will be able to relate to them easier and this was my reason for choosing this book. But.Bernard Mac Laverty has written this book from the perspective of a female, Catherine, and on finishing this novel, a male will feel, rightly or wrongly, that he better knows the female mind. Very descriptive with great observation;-"She noticed that her fists were clenched and she consciously relaxed them, turned her palms upward on her lap to s [...]

  • Susana Pereira

    A estrutura do livro é original e algo estranha: o livro foi dividido em duas partes, mas a segunda vem antes da primeira em termos cronológicos. Não sei o motivo do autor, mas acho que assim saímos da leitura um pouco mais optimistas, porque a cena final é revigorante e a primeira parte anda à volta de acontecimentos um pouco mais deprimentes. De qualquer maneira, no final não pude deixar de dar uma espreitadela a algumas passagens da primeira parte de modo a poder vê-las sob uma perspe [...]

  • Robert Strandquist

    My rating of 3 should be a 4 but I simply could not come to terms with my personal bias of a male author writing intimately about a female protagonist especially regarding childbirth. Aside from this blindness on my part, MacLaverty's strength is so ably using stream-of-consciousness to capture the inherent confusion during intense moments with Catherine's life and mind. A particular moment is the novel's final one when Catherine's musical composition is performed by a live orchestra. Here merge [...]

  • Hollis

    One of those nice novels that gets shortlisted for the Booker but never seems to win it: I have to admit that I found it a bit dreary at times. The thing that irritated me slightly about the book was the writing style: to me, it read like a piece of writing by a graduate student trying to emulate Virginia Woolf. Like this. Like that. Two ideas, apparently not linked, but still somehow joined. Transubstantion. They did that at Sunday school, with the dusty pews and benches. Old Mrs McMarnagan, wi [...]