Music and Freedom

Zoe Morrison, Music and Freedom, $32.99

Reviewed by Heather O’Connor

Zoe Morrison has a broad and interesting background in music and in issues surrounding violence against women, two themes at the heart of this award-winning first novel.

Music and Freedom is the story of a young girl from country Victoria whose life is transformed when she wins a scholarship to Oxford to study music. Her early days there are marked by loneliness and overwhelming homesickness, but she gradually becomes absorbed in the life and culture, and seems destined for a successful career as a concert pianist. A disastrous marriage follows with a cruel, abusive husband who ensures that her music career is cut short. We first meet her as a frail 70 year old woman, tying up the ends of her life, filing and discarding notes and books, when she hears through her wall the strains of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto Number 2, the demanding piece that marked the end of her career.

Then follows the account of her friendship and mentoring with a young musician next door, as they struggle together to conquer the Rach 2. (At this point you might want to revisit the film Shine to remind yourself of another musician who was undone by the Rach 2).

Despite the violence and the squandering of a professional life, the story is, in its own way, uplifting and optimistic. As a first novel it is yet another example of the prodigious talent of Australian writers. Highly recommended.