An unexpectedly moving memoir from a top violinist whose million-pound Stradivarius was stolen. The theft is a relatively small part of the book, because the first half is about Min’s childhood and her musical education. This is very necessary as it gives background to Min’s relationship with this specific instrument, which she regards as a soulmate. It’s interesting that she talks about the first time she ‘met’ this violin, as if it’s a person.
Min moved with her family from South Korea to England at a young age, where the most prestigious music schools and tutors were very keen to help her progress with the violin. She discusses what it was like to be labelled a child prodigy. The style is brutally self-reflective and although the theft wasn’t her fault, she berates herself for how easily she let other people make poor decisions on her behalf. I found the story very readable and some of the writing was excellent. I couldn’t help feeling that Min herself was not the most compelling figure; playing, listening to and talking about the violin was literally all she seemed to be interested in. I would have preferred more of a rounded memoir. It was also a little odd to have a few pages near the end which addressed her anorexia, which I think should have been incorporated into the earlier chapters.
An album of Min’s recitals was released to accompany the book and there is a musical note symbol in the text whenever a song on the album is referred to. I did listen to a couple of them and although I appreciate that Min has an incredible talent, personally I’m not a fan of music which is mainly or solely violin. This proves that you can enjoy reading the book even if you’re not an expert on classical music or violins.
There are a few photos printed at the end of the book, which adequately illustrate the memoir although there are no photos from the last 15 years. It would have been nice to have a photo of the Amati violin she eventually fell in love with and which gave the story a bittersweet ending.
First published in 2017, this edition 2018.