Jackie Kay's first novel is a curious and haunting story about mixed-race jazz trumpeter Joss Moody (Irish mother, black father), who turns out, on his death, to have been a woman all along. The story begins with that discovery. Thereafter it traces its consequences for his white wife Millie, who always knew, and his adopted black son Colman, who didn't. Millie rehearses the stages of her relationship with Joss, reworking an intense and abiding love and commitment in which gender is, oddly, never really an issue. Colman, by contrast, is driven, in the period immediately following his father's death, by anger and an intense feeling of betrayal, to try to "out" his father and complete his humiliation as a kind of personal expiation. As he retraces the steps of Joss's life, however, he begins gradually to change his mind. Kay has won acclaim for her poetry. Here she shows that she can harness her plangent voice to a narrative, producing writing of real maturity. Race and gender are deftly woven into its fabric, without insistence, to reveal a troubling ordinariness about fragmentation and confusions of identity in contemporary British life. --Lisa Jardine
WINNER OF THE 1998 GUARDIAN FICTION PRIZE " It has a humanity and sympathy which engaged me from start to finish. And its energy and directness made it a treat to read. . . . [Trumpet makes] us see that people apparently very unlike ourselves are in fact very much like ourselves. . . . Love is not usually such a triumphant idea in modern writing, but I think Jackie Kay makes it believably and vividly so." -- Ian Jack, "Granta" " Kay spins a love story, a fairy tale, and a psychological thriller out of one deep secret. She has a great gift for delving inside sundry souls, making poetry of their quirks. At its best, her prose ripples like jazz and brims with exquisite insights." -- Andrea Ashworth, author of Once in a House on Fire " Jackie Kay makes the unbelievable gloriously real. For a first novel this is remarkably assured, full of melody and tension. Each character is given a singing part, bouncing notes and harmonies off each other as Joss's story is teasingly, movingly revealed. ...Trumpet is a love story and a lament, beautifully told." -- Eithne Farry, "Time Out" " A hypnotic story...about the walls between what is known and what is secret--. Spare, haunting, dreamlike." ---"Time" " Splendid...[Kay's] imaginative leaps in story and language will remind some readers of a masterful jazz solo." ---"The San Francisco Chronicle"