- By Eva Hoffman


  • Title: Illuminations
  • Author: Eva Hoffman
  • ISBN: 9781846551550
  • Page: 110
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Illuminations Isabel Merton is a renowned concert pianist whose playing is marked by rare intensity and for whom each performance is a plunge into the compelling world of the music At the height of her career sh

    Isabel Merton is a renowned concert pianist, whose playing is marked by rare intensity, and for whom each performance is a plunge into the compelling world of the music At the height of her career, she feels increasingly torn between the expressive musical realm she inhabits, and the fragmented life she leads as an itinerant artist, with its frequent flights, anonymous hoIsabel Merton is a renowned concert pianist, whose playing is marked by rare intensity, and for whom each performance is a plunge into the compelling world of the music At the height of her career, she feels increasingly torn between the expressive musical realm she inhabits, and the fragmented life she leads as an itinerant artist, with its frequent flights, anonymous hotels and fortuitous, arbitrary encounters Away from her New York home on a European tour, Isabel meets Anzor Islikhanov, a political exile from war torn Chechnya driven by a bitter sense of injustice and a powerful desire to help and avenge his people As their paths cross in several cities, they are drawn to each other both by their differences, and their seemingly parallel passions until a menacing incident forces her to re evaluate his actions and her own feelings and throws her into a creative crisis.In this fiercely lyrical novel, Hoffman explores the luminous and dark faces of romanticism our often unadmitted need for than personal meaning and the place and force of art in a world riven with violence.

    1 thought on “Illuminations

    1. This book is more of the 4.5 stars variety for me. The story is about Isabel Merton, a concert pianist, who ends up in a relationship with a man involved in the politics of volatile Chechnya. The amazing part of the novel isn't the story, but how the writer has capture the emotions of music in words. There are portions where various thoughts of people attending Isabel's concerts are written in streams overlaying each other, as well as Isabel's own thoughts while she plays and I wanted to shout, [...]

    2. As someone with a strong background in music, this book really fell flat. Hoffman might have used her considerable skill to write a series of essays. The characters and relationships were all underdeveloped. There were hints and descriptions of the main character, Isabel's troubled past but it was as if in a fog or a dream. Perhaps this was intentional. Also, I found her descriptions of people listening to her concerts somewhat realistic and innovative but boring. Isabel annoyingly interprets th [...]

    3. This is a brilliant piece of literature: eloquent and completely engrossing.The reader follows Isabel through her tour of Europe and the people she runs into, a la The Portrait of a Lady. This novel is set in modern times, and this Isabel is a classical pianist on a concert tour. She meets a man full of political passion and falls in love with him, bringing questions of the meaning of live, music, and death into our minds.Woven throughout the novel are entries from Journal of a Summer, a posthum [...]

    4. music is beauty, beauty is love, love is music. (Repeat ad infinitum)(Insert plot device) Love interest is Chechen/terrorist who travels as much as protagonist versus predictable academic ex who provides less passionate love than Chechen. (Insert random drama). (Repeat) Anti-climactic ending.END

    5. TFW when you have trauma and you need to compose music:"She doesn't know where this composition is going, how the aural pressures within her will range themselves into intelligible formations; but she hears beginnings of long sinuous lines, and the micro-rhythms of speeded-up time, passages of tender fragility, and of fierce, dancelike affirmation. She senses that this will be a large composition, and that it will contain instruments filled with the moistness of the human voice, and the hard sex [...]

    6. Successful using language to describe what it feels like to hear, play, and compose music. Reminded me of Richard Powers' Galatea 2.2 about a computer that learns to read literature, a story that is also told with a great use of language.At a concert, audience members’ stream of consciousness is written with slashes like a poem: “Chopin knew, hated the Russians the tyrants the thugs / ah, listen, that line chromatic into the distance, from a distance, transporting, she transports me / must m [...]

    7. This book was a thought-provoking, lyrically written novel addressing the dichotomy between violence and love and music and expression, but more so privilege and the result of having too much or too little. Isabel isn’t so much spoiled as lucky and sheltered. She plays piano all day and attends parties afterwards with the social and political elite. Why she’s invited to these parties is beyond me, because she never seems to know what is going on and is kind of a downer. I didn’t dislike Is [...]

    8. This is one of the richest, most ambitious novels I've read in a while--and it's not even very long. It's the story of an accomplished, sensitive, innocent concert pianist on a tour of Europe who meets & engages in an intimate relationship with an angry, vengeful Chechen rebel representative. It takes place over just the few weeks of that tour & its aftermath. It's one of those books where the political is intensely personal. It's set on an international scale with big social/political/i [...]

    9. This is intellectual, psychological fiction with two rather unique themes that alone make it worth reading if they appeal to the reader. I use the word "intellectual" because of both the worlds the main characters operate in (classical performing arts and political diplomacy)and also for the at times unfortunate use of words that are mostly unknown or little used which is offputting. The psychological aspect is more compelling. A female classical pianist grapples with issues of artistic flow and [...]

    10. This is a bit different from what I normally read, so it took me about 30 pages to warm up to it. It's very stream-of-consciousness, a bit disjointed. The plot takes a while to really kick in. I felt like everything happened in one giant rush at the end, but for all I know, that was intentional.To show you how out of touch I am with the "scene," as it were, when I finished the book I thought, "If they made this into a movie, it would be a lot like Lost in Translation." That was when I read the a [...]

    11. An interesting but I think ultimately unsuccessful book. The author's training as a classical pianist stands her in good stead, and there are some truly breathtaking passages,at once lyrical and acute, where she writes about the music she loves - particularly Chopin and Schumann. The picture she draws of the itinerant musician's life is also convincing -well-observed and carefully nuanced. But the heroine herself I find deeply problematic, for she never seems to come to life, but, puppet-like, g [...]

    12. You can only really describe this book as a symphony of words, oozing class and sophistication. It reads like a conversation held by rich, well mannered yet pompous socialites. Like many good symphonies it crescendo's as much as it diminuendo's - this however is not always a good premis for a book.There is tension within the narrative and the lead character (isobel) is easily identifiable with. However the surrounding characters (most notable Anzor) are weak and inconsistent. And the relationshi [...]

    13. I like the theme of this book, with the protagonist shaken into a search for meaning. What I didn't like were the characters. Isabel is so naive and so unsure of herself, I wanted to reach into the book and shake her. Her lover, Anzor, is a condescending ass with anger issues, and for about the middle third of the book, I was questioning why she continues her relationship with him.The author does a pretty decent job on the music-side of things (although once referring to a flute player blowing " [...]

    14. This is a novel of ideas. And also a book about music. Since I don't really understand music on this level, this aspect of the book was a bit hard to follow, but I am sure musicians would relate to it. The ideas are art, beauty, history, freedom/independence, culture, etc. For me, the most vivid and moving parts of the book are the exchanges about cultural/historical differences between American, European and Chechen characters. I often found myself, like the heroine, quite unable to respond to [...]

    15. Not good. I was a serious classical musician and thought it would be wonderful to read about a classical musician and her trials and tribulations. However, the characters are so very flat. Isabel has no dimensions and Anzor is a terrible person. The plot is rather unbelievable, the language is much too flowery and could use a good edit, and some of the musical language she uses is not even accurate! Anyways, it was a quick enough read, but honestly, I felt like i wasted some time reading this bo [...]

    16. Isabel Merton, an American, world-class concert pianist is passionate about the power of music. But she has become restless & dissatisfied with the itinerant, though privileged, life of a performer. These feelings leave her open to a chance(?) relationship with a Chechen exile/activist whom she meets on a European tour. Anzor is also passionate, but his passion takes the form of rage (violence?) over his country survival and the injustices it has suffered. The encounter challenges Isabel’s [...]

    17. Somehow I thought this book might be a good quick read. I was thinking of Mr. Elfriede Jelinek's (Nobel Prize for Literature), The Piano Teacher. It felt like it was a "wanna be" and indeed it did not hold up. Expected too way too much for sure but I like books about people obsessed by their craft and talents and it some ways Ms. Hoffman provided that except for the very unbelievable and ill thought love story. Falling for a terrorist? (Well, I think he could be classified as a terrorist). Not t [...]

    18. This unconventional novel follows the parallel passions of Isabel Merton, a renowned concert pianist, and Anzor Islikhanov, a Chechen political exile driven by a powerful desire to avenge his people, with whom she becomes involved. Anzor is a frankly unappealing character, whose interminable lectures are a reminder that terrorists make for uncomfortable dinner parties.Other than Isabel, the characters in the novel seem one dimensional; still the writing was very good,and I would read another nov [...]

    19. Wow -- overall this had so many good reviews and the description was so interesting I decided to give it a try. It is very well written but for me, the characters never really got a voice; as one reviewer/reader said "they were flat and one dimensional." You want to feel the Isabel is dissatisfied and unhappy with her life. You want to feel that Anzor is enraged by the treatment of the Chechens but truthfully - they both come off like whiny spoiled, and even worse; bored, children. By the end of [...]

    20. An engrossing journey into the soul of an artist. A gifted pianist, Isabel Morton, is caught up a a whirlwind affair with a mysterious Chechen revolutionary during a European concert tour. You know it's not going to end well, but it does, eventually, as she learns to incorporate the lessons of her life into her art. I thought the descriptions of her thoughts while playing the piano offered a fascinating look into the workings of an artist's mind.

    21. Concert pianist Isabel Merton begins her European tour dissatisfied with the comfort and rationality of her life. The mystery and passion encountered in a mysterious Chechen freedom fighter draw her into a search for truth and meaning with explosive consequences. This novel portrays the conflict of self-fulfillment, world politics, and music.

    22. This interesting story is told in the first person by a famous American concert pianist on tour who meets and begins a relationship with a mysterious Chechian exile. The pianist is single minded on her art while the political exile is just as strongwilled regarding the political clime in Chechnia. I found this hard but very worthwhile reading.

    23. I had a hard time finishing this novel of ideas through two too contrived and not fully-developed characters. The juxtaposing of the world of clasical music vs. the political in the guise of a Chechnian terrorist just wasn't believeable to me. I sped-read through much of it - espcially the sections of audience members thoughts while the pianist plays and the journal entries of her former mentor.

    24. This book was about as pretentious as they come. The writing was ridiculously old fashioned and over the top with vocabulary well beyond the 'norm'. It was like a foreign movie gone crazy and while the beginning and middle leaned toward mainstream, the end became esoteric and insane. I'd recommend it if you want a challenge.

    25. I do like how Eva Hoffman writes about orchestral music. Her language is gorgeous. The story was headed somewhere unconventional and interesting, until the second act. Then so much of the strength of the lead character and her lover had built up in conflict - something had to blow - but it was much more literal than I wanted.

    26. exquisitely moving meditation on love, infatuation, music, and politics. Only a little stumble with some of the dialogue between Isabel and Anzor but so profoundly engrossing in her discussion of music and feeling. I read it in a single day and was very disappointed when it ended. gorgeous and very sad.

    27. I love music, romance, and international intrigue, and that's why I like this book. It has all this, and it's beautifully written to boot. It was a very fast, escapist read. At the same time, it was very thought-provoking about the different ways people express their passions.

    28. I would have given the first part of this book 4 starts but the middle and end more like a 2. I really enjoyed the descriptions and settings of the main character's travels and her art but found some of the other elements of the story and dialogue redundant.

    29. really boring read, I cannot recommend it to anyone who is not a musician - maybe even only to a professional musician or composer. Thankfully I was able to borrow it from the library and it was fairly short.

    30. It was well enough written to hold me all the way through but not well enough so as to be believable. And I find, from a distance of a few months, that I remember very little of the story. Lukewarm recommendation.

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