Trumpet Paperback – 27 Aug 1999
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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"See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
The whole book isn't told from the view of Millie Moody though. We also get to hear from Joss's son, Coleman, an author who is trying to write a book about Joss and various friends and family members. While the change of voice was quite strange at times, it helped me to understand Joss as a person much better. The only person who truly understood Joss was his wife so through these other characters, their confusion, anger and sadness explored. Coleman especially had such a strong voice because of how angry he was when he found out the truth about his father. I loved reading his chapters and seeing how his reactions changed.
Obviously, as well as tackling the subject of grief, Trumpet is mainly about gender and identity. I wished that we could have heard from Joss himself, to have gotten to know what his life was like. However, I think that the other character's thoughts did the situation justice when it came to not understanding something different. Jackie Kay really hits the nail on the head when she talks about people not accepting things they don't understand.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Superb novel, beautifully written and thought-provoking on genderPublished 3 months ago by Perry Morley
I'd read Jackie Kay's story, Red Dust Road and really enjoyed it. She writes with a vividness and keen eye for detail I like. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Mrs. K. A. Wheatley
a well written page turner which by the end answered the questions in your mind as you were reading giving different view points of the life of Joss
will definitely read more... Read more
An Interesting read of an unusual subject. I am glad I took the opportunity to have a look into a little known set of social issues. ,Published 4 months ago by Tony H
Fabulously written book. This was a book on one of my degree modules, and I'm so glad I had the opportunity to read this. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer