The Traveling Horn Player
Viking, 245 pp., $ 24.95
Feb. 18, 2003 – Rarely, once in a long while, a book can change the time in which we live, the space we occupy. "The Traveling Horn Player" is one of those books. Fifteen minutes is allotted, just to read a few pages, and suddenly an hour has passed. A spell is spun, a magic act performed, all through the delightful pages of Barbara Trapido's story about beautiful Stella.
Our locales are England, Scotland and Ireland — specifically, the intellectual scene, where learned professors and dons do their thing, and how charmed we are to find it all vastly interesting and not stuffy or over our heads. One would not dream that one of the brightest mathematical minds in Britain could be so eccentric (to put it gently), or that women would find him irresistible.
Which leads us to warn the flappable: The language is totally free and easy; that is to say four-letter Anglo-Saxon words abound but sound perfectly placed. All will be forgiven when you go along on the wings of the author's prose to all the bright places where so many fierce things are happening.
Lydia and Ellen are sisters, quite near the same age and also dearest friends. The story begins and ends, twisted and entwined, around about them. Perhaps their closeness in age led to their oneness; but whatever the cause, they never knew a lonesome moment growing up.
Jonathan and Roger Goldman are brothers, family friends of Lydia and Ellen who are much older and play major parts in the drama. The Goldman brothers are not close at all, and their complex personalities bring a lot of static electricity into play.
Stella, the diva, is the daughter of Jonathan Goldman, and although the tale becomes enmeshed in their lives and those of others on the edges of this world, it remains within a small circle.
The action of one touches another, and the resulting reaction thereby touches still another, until, at the last page, it all comes full circle. Like the stone that, when tossed into the pond, sends ripples outward, we are reminded that one's simplest act can move and shake other beings like an earthquake, leaving them changed forever. Ms. Trapido shows us how totally unaware the mover and shaker can be.
This is not a recently published book; it has been out several years. It's in print, though, and I recommend it heartily. Paying it the ultimate tribute, "The Traveling Horn Player" takes over the reader's life for a span of time; it saddens the heart, but in many places makes one laugh out loud.
"The Traveling Horn Player" is on order at Dockside Bookshop in Havensight Mall on St. Thomas and is expected to arrive next week. To check out other Dockside favorites, click here.
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