Quick Book Review: An Equal Music by Vikram Seth

An Equal Music by Vikram SethRating: 4/5
I read this in: English, the original language
Number of pages: 486
First published: 1999
Genre: contemporary fiction, literary fiction


This book was the book of the month in February at the Dutch online book group boekgrrls. I read this about 5 years ago and remember enjoying it, although I only had a vague memory of what it was about. So, I read it again.

The protagonist, Michael Holme, is a violinist in a quartet. He lives in London but grew up in the North of England. He is at a dead end in his life: he’s in his late thirties, not married, just about making enough money in music, and still yearning for Julia who he had a relationship with 10 years ago. Through his own fault, they stopped seeing each other and he has regretted it ever since. He has tried to re-establish contact but wasn’t able to track her down.

But then she tracks him down. She’s now married and has a son, and she isn’t half as obsessed with him as he is with her, but they start an affair anyway. One that makes her feel guilty, and him unsatisfied, as it’s never enough. He always wants to meet her more often but she is in control of when they meet.

The whole story is told from the perspective of Michael. He was not a particularly nice person, he didn’t do anything interesting and I found him much, much too obsessed with Julia. But the description about the music he plays and the way the quartet deal with each other is told so well, that it turns from something that I don’t care about much into something that made for an absorbing read.

Vikram Seth shows an incredible knowledge of and love for classical music. Music is an important part of the book, more than the average reader may like, but because of the fantastic way it is written, I never got bored.

I loved reading this book, and my only complaint was Michael: I found him too obsessed with Julia. I wanted to shout: “Get over it, Michael, it’s been 10 years! Get a life!”.  But he was stuck in this unsatisfactory life, both privately and professionally.

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at bookhelpline.com. In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

18 Responses to Quick Book Review: An Equal Music by Vikram Seth

  1. Iris says:

    I haven’t read anything by Vikram Seth, but I’m particularly looking forward to reading “A Suitable Boy” sometime of other.

  2. I loved this book, but agree with your comments about Michael. I have one friend who hated this book, and when I asked her why, she said it was entirely because of Michael – she disliked him so much she couldn’t enjoy the book. But for me on the whole I liked it, and loved the musicality of the book, it was just lovely.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Otherwatson, I can understand your friend, but although I didn’t like Michael, my dislike didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book too much. Glad you enjoyed it too.

  3. Rikki says:

    Not sure I’d want to read this as I don’t like unbalanced relationships. But I know that Vikram Seth pays a lot of attention to detail (see A suitable boy, one of my fav books), so I might give it a try anyway….

  4. Tony says:

    This book was simply wonderful. I hate Seth becuase he doesn’t write more novels 😉

  5. Kristen M. says:

    This is one that didn’t hold up for me on reread. I remembered liking it but couldn’t remember anything specifically about it. But, in the end, I just couldn’t stand Michael the second time through. I’ll just stick with rereading A Suitable Boy one day.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Kristen, a pity you didn’t like it so much the second time around. I think I liked the book better first time, too. I must read *A Suitable Boy*!

  6. bibliosue says:

    I’ve wanted to read this book, but frankly I kind of forgot about it.

  7. Mystica says:

    I am still waiting to get to his books. This is another one to add to the list.

  8. JoV says:

    yeah get a life Michael. Julia doesn’t want you!
    I’m classical music train and I still find this novel a bit of a drag. Great in some places, but not exactly a page turner. Glad you like it enough, as I did! 😀

    • Leeswammes says:

      Jo, I would have thought that someone with an interest in music would like this book (even) more than I did. Sorry to hear that wasn’t the case.

  9. neer says:

    Didn’t enjoy the book as much as his A Suitable Boy and The Golden Gate. Some parts though were heart-rending.

  10. Pingback: Quick Book Review: The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson (DNF) « Leeswammes' Blog

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