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Trumpet [Paperback]

Jackie Kay
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Mar 2011

The death of legendary jazz trumpeter Joss Moody exposes an extraordinary secret. Unbeknown to all but his wife Millie, Joss was a woman living as a man. The discovery is most devastating for their adopted son, Colman, whose bewildered fury brings the press to the doorstep and sends his grieving mother to the sanctuary of a remote Scottish village. A novel about the lengths to which people will go for love, Trumpet is a moving story of a shared life founded on an intricate lie, of loving deception and lasting devotion, and of the intimate workings of the human heart.

‘Jackie Kay makes the unbelievable gloriously real. Trumpet is a love story and a lament, beautifully told’ Time Out

‘The voices in this tender, compassionate work were still singing in my head a couple of weeks after I’d finished it’ Observer

‘This book is all about love . . . The qualities of sympathy and tenderness in the novel make it special and make Kay a writer to respect’ Guardian

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (4 Mar 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330511823
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330511827
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 12.5 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


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"

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Written mainly as a series of interior landscapes with relatively short sketches of the outside world in London and Scotland, the work stimulates your curiosity and engages your empathy. The focus of the story, Joss Moody, deceased trumpeter, appears largely and tantalisingly through others' eyes. This approach is no mere device, it is the point: what Joss meant to those who knew and loved him/her and how his "deception", as some define her/his secret, affects their loyalty and feelings for him/her.
A certain frustration may come from not having one's curiosity fulfilled about Joss's motivation for abandoning his life as the female Josephine. I also regret not witnessing more of Joss's mother's encounter with the adopted son, Colman. The book, though, is not an argument for transvestitism nor is it an apology, nothing so crude. The book is more a celebration, a song for that intangible in the human spirit that makes us feel we have experienced a unique relationship in knowing a particular individual. We are not presented with analysis of these experiences but, rather, the author plays each character's reflections much as Joss played his music. Indeed, Joss, though dead, is still very much alive not only in his recordings but also within those he loved. We too experience him/her in the sublime "Music" chapter where the soul of the novel and the soul of Joss meet in a poetic nexus.
By the end of the book, we have come to know Joss and his/her affect on people but s/he remains an enigma. The newspaper hack attempting to ghost-write Colman's "official biography" of Joss would doubtless produce a conclusive character portrait confidently separating appearance from reality and yet be a million miles from the truth. Kay instead leaves all judgements up to the reader who through her sensitive rendering feel not an impulse to judge but rather a reason to grieve.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
A rare book of great emotional strength which left me sobbing quietly at the end. It combines a tribute to the intense comforts of a passionate and long lasting marriage with an agonising search for identity and belonging and finally resolves its narrative movingly and resonantly. Every description rings true, every character lives, every episode has meaning - nothing is spare. A really wonderful book.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
The extraordinary life of a jazz trumpeter, Joss (born Josephine) Moody, who lived and played as a man. The story is told by a series of voices after Joss's death, including 'his' grieving widow and angry foster-son. Jackie Kay brings out the black humour of gender confusion, while gently suggesting that genius and love are just that, no matter how bizarre the circumstances. Beautifully written (the author is a poet) - but never precious.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A moving and utterly fantastic read. 11 Feb 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Trumpet" is one of the best books I have ever read - from start to finish, it is unbelievably moving, gripping and heart-rending. The story tells of how friends and family react after the death of Joss Moody, when it is first revealed to all but his wife that he was not born biologically male. Kay handles this matter in an extremely loving and very admirable manner. What I particularly loved about this book was the love that Kay shows Joss's wife Millie having for him and her beautiful and touching descriptions of how much Millie misses Joss, and all the wonderful times they had together when he was alive.
This is a book that definately deserves wider recognition, as it is a fabulous read. It is not a subject matter which is touched on extremely frequently and Kay's treatment of it is simply wonderful. As a transgendered man myself, I found Kay's book accurate, thoughtful and incredibly tender, something which I am sure even somebody who was new to this subject matter could appreciate. The writing is also superb and makes for a completely unputdownable read. I would recommend it to absolutely anyone.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jackie Kay, Trumpet 27 July 2005
I am amased that this book isn't more well-known (I had trouble finding it in most bookstores) because it is a brilliant read. I had to read it for my women's module and it was far from a chore. I loved all the narrators of this book and particularly felt sorry for Mrs Moody and her son. It only took me 3 days to read it because it was that good. It is impossible to put down. It deals with the issues of love, death, anger and identity crisis with ease. I recommend it to everyone.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful 16 Jan 2007
Trumpet collects the eperiences of fictional trumpeter Joss Moody's friends and family, after his death when it is revealed he was actually female. The most prominant characters are his loving wife, his resentful son, and the shallow journalist who, in hope of writing a scandallous best-selling book, imagines Moody and his wife as butch lesbians.

At the end of the book, although I hadn't met Joss Moody, i felt I knew him better than any of the other characters. Kay's storytelling is absolutely top-notch; this book _wants_ to be read in one sitting.

It's definately made me want to read everything else that Jackie Kay has written.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I just loved it 31 May 2010
How in God's name I have missed this book is amazing. I devoured it in 2 days. I am not usually a fan of people who write like poets but I have to say Jackie Kay's trumpet is a very well written book. When I first heard of this book, I though that I would be reading about how Joss Moody decided to become a man, how he managed to pull it off, the challanges he might have met along the way. But NO, this book is a whole lot bigger than that.

This book is all about love. How you can love someone so much that whether they change sex, you still love them for who they are. It is about how it feels to lose the love of your life. Don't be mistaken into beliving it is just about a transvestite, it is about 2 people who love each other, the loss that is felt when you lose the love of your life.

Jackie Kay did a brillant job capturing the emotion of young Colman. I enjoyed reading his part and discovering at the end that despite his father and mother deceiving him, he still loved his father very much. That was extremely touching.

Overall I would highly recommend this book, it is beautiful pageturner with a steady moving plot.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars elegiac & gloriously optimistic about love & loss
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand what it is to love another person totally & uncritically: what it is to love a child; a parent; a lover who is your... Read more
Published 24 days ago by Ms P M Willis
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb
This is one of the best books I have ever read, and the writing skills and theme are brilliant, recommend it
Published 4 months ago by E. Pomeransky
2.0 out of 5 stars interesting narrative style
I had to read this book for a university module. From the beginning, it caught my attention and turned out to be a different, interesting book. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Ellie
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful
Lovely book, would recommend to anyone. Gorgeous portrayal of grief and love, heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. Beautiful.
Published 6 months ago by B. Hamilton
1.0 out of 5 stars hmmm....
Is this where society is heading. Soon we will have to call each other 'it' just to be politically correct about each others sexes.
Published 7 months ago by Jamie_lee Graham
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
This really pushes the boundaries of any prejudices you thought you didn't have. Whilst I did find some of it implausible I did come to realise that in those days before the... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Wondereyes
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing
This book was totally not what I was expecting. Cleverly written. Was very emotional and sad, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Published 11 months ago by Ruth Leslie
5.0 out of 5 stars Jackie Kay, Trumpet
A wide-ranging exploration of individual experiences in the world of adoption among sensitive children of mixed-race origin in a well rendered musical environment--bears comparison... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Prof C. Heywood
4.0 out of 5 stars A book you won't forget
A beautifully written and haunting book that will stay with you long after you have read it! I read it all in one day.
Published 13 months ago by Caramel
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
Could be my favourite book of all time. Love it as much now as I did on my first reading about 15 years ago.
Published 14 months ago by Ruby Deck
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