Reviewed by Alissa McDonald
Reading someone’s memoirs and then reviewing them, seems a very personal, almost intrusive thing to do. But The Mandolin Lesson has been written so that we can share Frances Taylor’s journey – not simply the physical journey, but the emotional, the musical and the spiritual journey as well.
Frances’ passion for the mandolin leads her to travel regularly from her family home to Italy over the course of four years, so that she ‘may learn to play more beautifully.’ The enormity of what she is undertaking strikes the reader as she reflects upon her son, a chorister at St Paul’s, and ‘how strange it is that music brings us so close together and yet today pulls us apart.’
The whole book (except the introduction and the update) is written in the present tense so that it feels like you have access to the author’s internal dialogue as events happen. Whilst I liked the immediacy of this approach, and the attention to detail is impressive, I sometimes felt a little overwhelmed by the level of detail conveyed. However, about halfway through reading the memoirs, I found myself converted – the details immersed me in Frances’ life, in her love of music and Italian culture and her innermost thoughts and feelings.
The Mandolin Lesson is a descriptive, reflective account of a remarkable, talented woman and a very salient part of her life. It will also without doubt tempt you to visit Italy, and possibly experience the mandolin!
Available to buy from Trouabdor here.