Published: 25 April 2017
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
The spellbinding memoir of a violin virtuoso who loses the instrument that had defined her both on stage and off — and who discovers, beyond the violin, the music of her own voice
Her first violin was tiny, harsh, factory-made; her first piece was “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star.” But from the very beginning, Min Kym knew that music was the element in which she could swim and dive and soar. At seven years old, she was a prodigy, the youngest ever student at the famed Purcell School. At eleven, she won her first international prize; at eighteen, violinist great Ruggiero Ricci called her “the most talented violinist I’ve ever taught.” And at twenty-one, she found “the one,” the violin she would play as a soloist: a rare 1696 Stradivarius. Her career took off. She recorded the Brahms concerto and a world tour was planned. Then, in a London cafe, her violin was stolen. She felt as though she had lost her soulmate, and with it her sense of who she was. Overnight she became unable to play or function, stunned into silence.
In this lucid and transfixing memoir, Kym reckons with the space left by her violin’s absence. She sees with new eyes her past as a child prodigy, with its isolation and crushing expectations; her combustible relationships with teachers and with a domineering boyfriend; and her navigation of two very different worlds, her traditional Korean family and her music. And in the stark yet clarifying light of her loss, she rediscovers her voice and herself.
Rating: 5 Stars
If ever there is a book that so concisely tells the story of someone’s passion and does so while embracing that passion, entrusting and passing it on to the reader, then it is Gone by Min Kym. A woman who was a child prodigy of violin music, we hear the story of her learning what it was to pick up the instrument and see her future in wood and string, to journey from being a little girl to a young woman whose music was so profound.
The emotion carried on in this book is only part of the work. The writing, authentic and never pretentious, that enabled me to feel it was a blessing, as I wasn’t sure whether the depth of Kym’s feeling for the violin, both before and after the tragic loss of her prized Stradivarius, would translate well to the page. I needn’t have worried, though, because we not only got a glimpse into that emotional range, but also into what it looked like in her life beyond the musical world. It is difficult at any age to be amazing at something, but to learn about her talent and skill so early added a stress to Kym’s life that I don’t think everyone would be able to bear.
Another thing that I enjoyed about the book was there were links to some of Min Kym’s works that are mentioned within the story. The accompanying album, Gone, is available on Spotify here. Classical music is one of my favorites because, in my opinion, it has the fluidity to speak to a person more so than a song with words. The feeling is there and that feeling can change with the person, with the listening. If you’re reading the novel Gone, I cannot stress how much listening to Min Kym’s album will add to the experience.
I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books for this review.