-“At heart, she was a violinist. No other instrument, for her at least, could capture the strains of the soul’s deepest yearnings and desires, its bitterest disappointments and losses.” – Tamera Alexander: A Note Yet Unsung
The beautiful summer weather is upon us, and as a result, I have primarily relocated to my porch. My husband, daughter, and I planted our flowers for the potted plants a few weeks ago, a beautiful assortment of petunias, ageratums, and begonias, as well as several rose bushes for the yard, and my favorite pastime is now admiring the view with a peach tea in one hand, and a good book in the other.
As a mother of a toddler, trips to the store can prove challenging, so I now order most of my necessities online: clothes, books, shoes, and even, I feel lazy even admitting it, groceries! However, I decided to brave a trip to a REAL bookstore to find a new book for my summer entertainment, with my toddler in tow. I selected Tamera Alexander’s A Note Yet Unsung, and finished the 430-page novel in three days. I have the sunburn to prove it! Here is my review of the book, without giving away any spoilers.
A Note Yet Unsung: A Belmont Mansion Novel
By Tamera Alexander
430 pp. Bethany House. $15.99
Published in 2017
Alexander sets her historical romance in the 1870s in Nashville, TN. She recounts the experiences of twenty-three-year old Rebekah Carrington, a violinist who returns to her hometown after ten years abroad studying music in Vienna. She desires to play with the newly formed Nashville Philharmonic, but is unable to join due to her gender, as women are not allowed to play violin in public. However, she seeks to persuade the new conductor, Maestro Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb, that she should be permitted to join the orchestra, hoping the positions can be filled based on merit and not simply gender. However, the conductor works with many prejudiced donors who oppose this sort of progressivism, and she is denied. However, she is eligible to serve as his assistant, a job to which she reluctantly agrees.
During their weeks of collaboration together, Rebekah helps the Maestro write his symphony that the orchestra will perform for the opening of the new opera house in Nashville. Rebekah resigns herself to being grateful she can contribute to the performance in some way, even if she cannot perform on stage. The plot continues to follow their relationship and careers, with several twists along the way.
As a musician, I found Alexander’s depictions of our kind to be pretty spot-on. She described the perfectionism, creativity, passion, irritability, and intellectualism of the conductor’s personality, a combination of characteristics which often apply to people of this profession. I had to laugh, and slightly grimace, as I saw a bit of myself in these depictions. I must admit that the spouses of musicians really are saints to put up with us! As a violinist, I loved Alexander’s descriptions of the importance of the instrument in our lives, how it allows us “to capture the strains of the soul’s deepest yearnings and desires.”
I especially enjoyed her inclusion of a musical playlist, which allowed readers to listen to the songs described in her story. I am a predominantly auditory person, so listening to the selections of Mozart, Chopin, and Beethoven deepened my appreciation of the text, giving me an auditory component to accompany the literary page. This fusion of the arts exemplified Alexander’s ability to tap into the romantic ideals of the 19th century when the blurring of lines between all forms of artistic expression was revered.
Although the book is predominantly presented as a sweet, inspirational romance, it addresses several serious themes throughout the story, including sexism in the workplace, the shift from slavery to servant hood in the lives of African Americans after the Civil War, physical abuse, musicians’ proclivity towards substance abuse, the difficult effects of degenerative disease in one’s profession (a Beethovenian component), and the role of faith in these circumstances. I thought Alexander handled these issues with wisdom and delicacy.
I personally found this to be an enjoyable, captivating book, and would highly recommend it for both musicians and non-musicians alike looking to find the perfect summer read. I am including the link to the book, as well as the author’s website for access to the musical playlist.