The Melody by Jim Crace
Knopf Doubleday: 6/19/18
eBook review copy; 240 pages
The Melody by Jim Crace is a recommended allegorical tale about ageing, urban renewal, family conflict, and grief.
Alfred Busi is a famous singer in his sixties living in his family's
villa overlooking the sea in
unnamed town. He still occasionally performs, but mostly for small
crowds. He is still mourning the recent death of his wife. His town is
going to honor him the next evening, when he is attacked by an intruder.
He thinks it was a wild feral child while his sister-in-law, who comes
over to bandage him up, thinks it was a cat. This attack and a news
account of the attack, along with pictures of Busi in bandages, sets off
a chain of events, including a drive to rid the town of the poor after
Busi was subsequently mugged. Busi also has to handle his nephew who
wants him to sell his villa so seaside condos can be built on the land.
First, the prose is distinct and startling at times, with unique
descriptions. His first attacker is described as something fierce and
dangerous, wild and innocent, with smooth skinned that smells like
potato peel. It creates a visceral image that sticks in your mind. The
setting the rich against the poor was certainly a morality tale for our
time. The narrator is removed from the story, simply telling the story,
until we learn his identity later in the book. Crace is, as he describes
himself, a fabulist.
But, even with parts that were amazing, I'm going to admit that this was
a tough story for me to get through. There were parts that were
intriguing and brilliant, but other sections simply didn't hold my
attention. I appreciated the reflections on grief and the loss of his
wife. I wanted to love The Melody, but it ended up just being an average novel with bits of brilliance.
My review copy was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday.