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Rites of Spring [Paperback]

Jessica Duchen
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
RRP: 6.99
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Book Description

27 July 2006

This isn't where we started out. This isn't what we wanted or intended. How did we come to this?

Adam and Sasha appear to have it all: a pleasant home, demanding careers and three bright children. But underneath, the pressures of modern living are taking an unendurable toll. When Adam, under extreme strain, breaks a longstanding promise to his wife, their relationship begins to crumble. Liffy, their innocent, ballet-obsessed thirteen-year-old, is caught in the middle.

Her parents are too occupied with their own troubles to notice that she is struggling. Adam battles with grief, while high-flying Sasha tries to juggle her work with caring for her small twin sons. As Liffy finds herself drifting away, the Levys spiral towards tragedy. Somsone has to make a sacrifice, but the cost could be too much to bear...

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks; New Ed edition (27 July 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340839317
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340839317
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 58,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

"Enthralling...Jessica writes with an unpredictable and original voice and a dazzling perceptiveness" JOANNA LUMLEY on SONGS OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE.

Jessica is a versatile wordsmith with a musical bias. Her output includes novels, biographies, plays, words&music projects, poetry for musical setting, music journalism and more. Her writing regularly appears in The Independent, BBC Music Magazine and Opera News, among other publications, and her music blog "JDCMB", http://jessicamusic.blogspot.com, has attracted more than 1.5m readers.

Jessica and her musician colleagues are performing concert versions of her novels HUNGARIAN DANCES and ALICIA'S GIFT through 2013 and her plays respectively about Wagner and Messiaen are due for more performances. Please see EVENTS list below, or visit http://jessicaduchen.co.uk/01_news.htm for full listings.

Her novels focus on the cross-currents between family generations, with music a recurring theme. All are now additionally available in e-book format.

Jessica's biographies of the composers Gabriel Fauré and Erich Wolfgang Korngold for Phaidon's 20th Century Composers series have met with wide acclaim.

Watch an extract from BBC TV's SACRED MUSIC series in which Jessica talks about Fauré's Requiem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pK42rSYuRHM

Product Description


'An imaginative novel . . . with themes of miscommunication, perfectionism and adolescence.' (Eve)

'Jessica Duchen's debut novel is captivating, imaginative and fascinating. As a musician and a mother, I recognized many of the scenarios and found the questions that were posed very poignant, both from a musical and personal perspective. The pace builds powerfully to a dramatic and ultimately very moving conclusion. Completely gripping!' (Tasmin Little)

'Adam and Sasha appear to have the perfect life - good jobs, a nice home, money and three perfect children. But as their marriage begins to unravel, their ballet-crazy daughter starts staving herself - and her parents are too preoccupied to notice. A haunting, heartbreaking novel.' (Closer)

'Liffy, the central character in Jessica Duchen's debut novel, is the teenage daughter of two career-driven parents living in an upmarket London suburb. As they struggle to make their former youthful ideals work amid the pressures of modern life, Liffy begins to shield herself mentally as her family decays around her by immersing herself in her passion - ballet. Rites of Spring draws on the image of a young girl dancing herself to death in Stravinsky's ballet to explore the impulse towards anorexia common in so many teenage girls today. Duchen paints a vivid and utterly bleak picture of modern family life, poignantly depicting Liffy's increased isolation as the people around her become so preoccupied and alienated from one another that one of the central characters, observing from a distance, wonders how people who are individually so bright, so intelligent, so nice, so creative, can collectively paper over all their problems. A sensitive and thought-provoking novel that will resona (Femke Colborne, MUSO)

'A sensitive and thought-provoking novel that will resonate all the more for those with musical leanings.' (Femke Colborne, MUSO)

'Jessica Duchen has crafted a riveting drama set within the arts world . . . The neatly-composed plot charges to a climax as steadily as Ravel's Boléro, with Duchen capturing well the inner world of the pubescent girl and the London classical music scene. For fans of Joanna Trollope and Russian composers alike.' (Classic FM Magazine)

'In Jessica Duchen's novel, Sasha, a self-absorbed and self-righteous ex-dancer, is now the author of a social-commentary column and also appears on a TV arts-review show. Adam, who is a self-pitying, hard-left activist and former artist, works for an exploitative publisher. They have three children: rather repellent twin boys who reveal more likeable personalities away from their parents, and Liffy, who is an endearing 13-year old wannabe ballet-dancer who retreats into a fantasy inner-life that ultimately drags her into dangerous physical and psychological waters. Apart from three cats, most of the other characters are as unlikeable as Adam and Sasha, except for Sasha's cellist sister Lisa, whose low self-esteem and true heart makes her Liffy's only hope of understanding. As the family gradually begins to self-destruct and its members struggle towards self-realisation and a kind of redemption you'll either think 'there but for the grace of God' or, depending on your own background (Barry Witherden, BBC Music Magazine, *****star review)

'Wonderful! Thank you for hours of absorption - I had to know what happened to the characters.' (Steven Isserlis)

'Duchen writes with a rhythm and pace that embrace a tellingly perceptive and articulate portrayal of the nuances of the human condition, richly detailed and yet always fluent.' (Classical Music Magazine)

Book Description

At what point does a free spirit become a lost soul? This debut novel set in the music world beautifully captures the pressures and dangers of contemporary family life.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leaves you utterly gobsmacked . Brilliant! 17 April 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This supebly written story had me bawling my heart out. You live each momment. The author pulls you into the book from the word go, and I found it very hard to put down! Emotional, true to life, excellent storyline. A fantastic read.You wont be disappointed.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sensitive, moving and marvellous 23 July 2006
I read this first in hardback; now I'm buying the paperback for all my friends' birthdays. I just couldn't put it down.

It's not really a book about anorexia, but about the sensitive balance of dynamics within the family and what can happen when they're out of kilter. Liffy, 13, is an adorable, vulnerable heroine. She and her pretentious mother, bereaved father, lovelorn aunt, and infuriating twin brothers feel like real people who are struggling to cope with what life throws at them, as we all do. And the cats are wonderful.

I found 'Rites of Spring' sensitive, beautifully written, compulsively readable and very moving. One review, quoted in the paperback, compared it to Joanna Trollope, but I'd say it's several cuts above, and incidentally you don't need to know anything about classical music to enjoy it. I hope we'll have lots more from this fascinating writer.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars an enjoyable read 11 Jan 2011
By H. Ashford VINE VOICE
Adam is having a mid-life crisis; he hates his (well paid) job, and, when he is offered a significant promotion he throws his dummy out of the pram and walks out. Unfortunately, he omits to tell his wife, Sasha, about his new jobless status. When she does find out, she throws him out, and Adam runs back home to daddy in Oxford for love and support.

The resultant strain, of trying to cope with a teenage daughter and eight year old twins, as well as write a weekly newspaper column and make fortnightly tv appearances - and desperately trying to find time for herself (oh, the poor dear!), propels Sasha into her own mid-life crisis. She embarks on an ill-considered affair, and discovers the illicit thrills of shoplifting.

Meanwhile, their teenage daughter, Liffy, is feeling increasingly lost and lonely; she is crying out for help but her parents are too absorbed in their own crises to notice.

This book has much to recommend it. The characterisations are good - you really feel you get to know the characters and can empathise with them even when they are at their most obnoxious. Liffy's teenage angst, and particularly the scenes where she interacts with school friends, is sympathetically handled and very readable. Moreover the writing style is engaging and easy to read, and the balance between the different plot elements is well done.

However, I feel the plot line was very thin and that the subject matter (which had quite a lot of promise) was handled in a way that managed to be both trite and stereotyped. I felt the ending was particularly weak - the ends were tied up far too neatly for credibility, and the last couple of pages deteriorated into a kind of "New Age" drivel.

Overall, an undemanding and enjoyable read, but not a great one.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good, though with lots to remember 23 Nov 2009
Again, another good read from jessica. The second i have read, the first alicias gift which is superb!

This, another family saga with its downs and issues. Jesica has got a knack, a feel for the working family. This, a story mainly around liffy and her teenage issues the main onwe being anorexia. It dwells at the start but soon picks up, a nice finish at the end, all well that ends well.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a real rollercoaster ride 15 Dec 2007
By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE
Here's how I just explained to someone that this book is such a good read:

[1] because Jessica Duchen writes with truth, warmth and wit about instantly recognisable people and places

[2] because she can make the dramatic and extraordinary unravelling of an ordinary family as logical, necessary and gripping as the tightest of thrillers

[3] because she can make a harmless glass of water and lemon juice more scary and sinister than a poisoned martini

[4] because she can do for classical music what Dick Francis did for horse racing, and share from the inside her passion and understanding of a rich and fascinating world

[5] because when even the best and worst of novelists are succumbing to the tacky cliche of incest, she has taken on challenging topic of anorexia in a core plot thread, and made it both explicable and moving even while writing with uncomfortable honesty about its physical, emotional and social effects.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars anorexia 21 Feb 2009
By Sara
There are better books about anorexia. However, as stated by other reviewers, this book isn't so much about anorexia as it is about the inner workings of a family, and this is written about wonderfully.

I felt like I could see a lovely, realistic family, and then anorexia as a separate entity, circling them, trying to find a way in. So when cracks appear in the family mold, it's interesting to see how anorexia enters and transpires.

I gave this book to my friends, and although all of them lost interest at some point, they did all finish it and ultimately enjoy it.
The same goes for me, & although I never lost interest, there was something, just something missing. Not from the story, because the story travels smoothly from beginning to end & is wonderful. But, I think I've read better.

Still, a very good writer. I will read more from her.
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