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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, moving novel of music, love, sadness and more...
It's hard to do this exquisite novel justice without giving too much away..

Catherine is a young composer, coming from the background of "The Troubles" in northern Ireland, and a family of an overbearing unempathetic mother and recently died father, whose funeral the novel opens with

She has recently given birth and is suffering from severe postnatal...
Published on 7 Jun 2007 by Ms. J. Liddle

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Second hand book
Arrived quickly but was not 'as new' - it was quite faded. OK to read, but have now given it away to charity shop.
Published 9 months ago by Sally Fowler


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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, moving novel of music, love, sadness and more..., 7 Jun 2007
By 
Ms. J. Liddle "Janet" (At Work) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Grace Notes (Paperback)
It's hard to do this exquisite novel justice without giving too much away..

Catherine is a young composer, coming from the background of "The Troubles" in northern Ireland, and a family of an overbearing unempathetic mother and recently died father, whose funeral the novel opens with

She has recently given birth and is suffering from severe postnatal depression.

Before I read this novel, I was fairly sceptical as I thought "what can a man know about post natal depression?" Having read this novel, I can only assume that McLaverty's wife maybe suffered, or he suffered from depression himself.

I have experienced depression myself, and I have never read such an exquisitely crafted, beautiful, moving and ultimately inspirational fictitious account of depression.

This novel contains some amazing passages, including one of my favourite passages ever:

"She got in the lift to go up, and looked at the people in there. Any one of them could have a story to tell as bad as her own. With a weight like that, the lift should be going down"

I think there is a comparison between depressed thoughts and "Grace Notes" Grace notes being the notes between notes, that take the piece of music to another place and make a world of difference.. and depressed thoughts maybe being "The thoughts between thoughts" that take your mind and heart to another place?

I would recommend this to anyone, and especially to someone who is or has suffered from depression. It is comfort to know that you are not the only person to have felt that way, and that wherever there is life there is hope.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully orchestrated, gracefully written., 21 Oct 2003
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Grace Notes (Paperback)
This multileveled novel tells of a young woman who escapes her Irish family, studies music with world class artists and composers, carves out a personal and professional life in a world dominated by men, and then returns briefly for the funeral of her estranged father and reconciliation with her mother. But it is also a search for grace in its various definitions.
As a composer, Catherine looks for the "notes between the notes...graces, grace notes." A Catholic who no longer believes, she sees "music as the grace of God...a way of praying." Appalled by the cruelty and intolerance which "religious" men have shown each other throughout history, she believes that "her act of creation [not religious dogma]...define[s] her as an individual...and define[s] all individuals as important."
She embarks on a series of religious compositions at the same time that she rejects the church and its teachings about marriage and family. Choosing not to marry the father of her child, she nevertheless recognizes her daughter as a miracle, a profound mystery which "there was no form of music to celebrate or mark..." Filled with symbols of Fatherhood, baptism, ascension, rebirth, and ultimate triumph, MacLaverty's Grace Notes is a compelling and sensitive exploration of a young woman's attempt to reconcile her humanity with the universal mysteries of creation. Mary Whipple
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Like This Please, 8 Aug 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Grace Notes (Paperback)
Catherine McKenna is a deep and fascinating character, and is made perhaps more remarkable given that she is penned by a male author. This book is compelling and deeply moving and will be enjoyed by all who require that their fiction sweep them up and take them on an all consuming emotional journey.
MacLaverty's ability to render music audible through the written word, even to those of us who had never before heard of a grace note, is quite remarkable.
I look forward to The Anatomy School.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Notes Between, 14 May 2010
This review is from: Grace Notes (Paperback)
I really enjoyed this novel. The author writes movingly about the unspoken relationship between the female protagonist and her strict, religious parents, her largely absent boyfriend, her baby daughter and her music. Bernard MacLaverty establishes a tone of isolation - both environmental and emotional - that permeates the story and his characters. It's not a plot-driven narrative but a multi-layered exploration of the consoling power of creativity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant read, 10 Aug 2009
By 
MaryWood (South East England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Grace Notes (Paperback)
This book is about a woman coping with bereavement, motherhood and family conflicts and the power of music to heal. It is a really well-written sensitive book which cleverly sets the context of these issues within the Irish troubles. I heard the author talking about his work on the radio and agree with the many comments from the audience that (like Khaled Husseini) somehow he manages to get inside the woman's perspective prefectly. No wonder this is ao highly acclaimed. A genius of a writer, this is a short read but compulsive. Set in 2 distinct parts with the second part going back in time to explain the first part. If you're looking for a intelligent beach-read that is so much better than any 'chick-lit' but still from a woman's perspective about real women's issues then you must read this book. I would especially recommend it if you have some interest in composing music, Ireland's political history, Catholicism and Scotland's Highland Island's lanscape. Beautifully descriptive. One of the best I've read so far this year.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Portrait of the Artist as A Young Girl, 21 Jun 2013
By 
Kate Hopkins (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Grace Notes (Paperback)
A very impressive and beautifully written novel about a woman composer. Bernard MacLaverty follows the life of Catherine McKenna from her childhood in a Catholic home in Northern Ireland and her intense relationship with her music-loving alcoholic father and gentler relationship with her mother and grandmother to her university days, studying music in Belfast, Glasgow and Kiev, her time schoolteaching on a Scottish island (when she becomes entangled with the seductive but also destructive Dave), her experiences as a single mother and her struggles to become a fulltime composer, culminating in the triumphant broadcast of a major orchestral work. (None of this is a spoiler; MacLaverty begins his story after the broadcast, with Catherine's first return to her childhood home for years, and works backwards through flashbacks, a long central section dealing with Catherine's time on the island and a final section dealing with her life back in Glasgow working as a composer.) MacLaverty writes with great intelligence about music and about the difficulties that face composers, particularly female ones, and is particularly good on the relationships between Catherine and her teachers. He also brings the different places that influence Catherine in her work (rural Northern Ireland, the beaches on the Scottish island, Kiev just after Communism) very well to life, and works Irish politics convincingly into his story. Catherine is a compelling and interesting heroine, and there are several other vivid figures in the book (her father, who adores her but ultimately rejects her, her gentler, very devout mother, Miss Bingham her ferociously devoted music teacher, the Ukrainian and Chinese composers with whom Catherine studies and her friend Liz, to name but a few). Catherine's tragic relationship with Dave was also well portrayed though I'd have liked to know more about what drew the pair together as they seemed to have so little in common - was it largely loneliness and Dave's good looks on Catherine's part? The final section of the book, focussing on Catherine's work and her experiences of motherhood, was particularly fine - and congratulations to MacLaverty for writing so well as a man about post-natal depression.

All in all a superb read. From what I've seen of MacLaverty's other books it's rather gentler than his usual writing - I'd certainly be interested to find out if he's written any more about music and musicians.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A convincing work of fiction, 31 Jan 2007
By 
HORAK (Zug, Switzerland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Grace Notes (Paperback)
Catherine McKenna is a composer and a music teacher. She flies back home to Northern Ireland to attend her father's funeral. She is about to spend a few difficult days with her mother and sisters, a strictly catholic family, who run a pub. This is the occasion for Catherine to remember her childhood, her Granny Boyd, her first piano lesson with Miss Bingham, her musical studies in Belfast and the award she won for the excellence of her work which allowed her to travel to Kiev to visit the famous composer Melnichuck.

She remembers how she met Dave, the father of her daughter Anna aged 18 months, a charming man who became a violent alcoholic. Catherine had to leave him and take refuge with her friend Liz in Glasgow.

Catherine's sad and depressed existence is described with a very elegant delicacy. The 30 or so pages devoted to the way Catherine had to travel to the mainland to give birth to her daughter in the absence of Dave are of exceptional literary quality. Another strength of this novel are the numerous references to famous composers and musicians which are highly instructive without adding any weight to the plot. A highly recommended book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grace Notes Bernard macLaverty, 1 Nov 2010
This review is from: Grace Notes (Paperback)
"Grace Notes" is an amazingly realistic account of a young woman going through various experiences including: giving birth to her first child; experiencing domestic abuse and composing music as a way of making her living. She is endearing as a character due to MacLaverty's skill in speaking with her voice and allowing the reader insight into her thought processes. He is particularly adept at tackling the musical aspect of Catherine's personality. The reader experiences her inspiration first hand and gains a sense of the rhythms she talks about. MacLaverty also creates the character with great sympathy. The passage where she gives birth is a masterpiece of observation and emotion. The experience has rarely been described more beautifully anywhere. The settings are evocative, from the harsh revisiting of old memories in Northern Ireland to the dreamy existence on the Isle of Islay, MacLaverty brings them alive for the reader in intricate detail. The writer's use of music metaphors throughout make the language charming and unusual. I loved this book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful description of a flawed character, 8 April 2014
By 
J. Wilkie "Captain Pantoja" (West of Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Grace Notes (Paperback)
Catherine has to battle her feelings of guilt for refusing to conform to her parent's religious beliefs and expectations of her as a daughter.
She has to battle a violent drunken partner and post natal depression.
All this as she wrestles with self doubt about her vocation as a composer and the plunge into poverty it necessitates.

Gripping and real, painful and funny I can't recommend it highly enough- I just finished it for the second time and none of its power was lost on re-reading it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Second hand book, 23 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Grace Notes (Paperback)
Arrived quickly but was not 'as new' - it was quite faded. OK to read, but have now given it away to charity shop.
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Grace Notes
Grace Notes by Bernard MacLaverty (Paperback - 30 April 1998)
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