Book Twelve: The Travelling Horn Player

I just finished this book, which was a fairly quick read; it helped that I didn’t do much of anything today, other than go for a walk with a friend and make further tweaks to the new site. I’m still not certain that my RSS redirect is working; if this post is indeed showing up in someone’s feed reader, I would love to hear about it, as it would put my mind at ease. You can leave a comment to the post or email me at meloukhia{@}gmail{.}com. Who knows, maybe there will be a special prize for the first correspondent!

My response to The Travelling Horn Player is mixed. It started out slowly, and around the third chapter, I found myself wondering what the point was. I even discussed the book on my walk, trying to probe the reasons why I felt so resistant to it. Then I started getting into it, feeling invested in the characters and the plot and being intrigued by what was happening. And then the last chapter was incredibly rushed, so the book finished on a sour note. It felt like the closing act of a Shakespeare, only condensed into one scene rather than artfully spread out.

I may read it again, to see if the book acquires a deeper interest for me, but I don’t think it will. I found most of the characters pretty loathesome, and some of them were rather flat, as well. And the characters weren’t loathsome in an interesting way, they were just sad sacks. Viewing the book as an analysis of the myriad ways in which humanity is awful, it was in some sense enjoyable. But the paradoxical pacing of the book was a bit much for me; it was almost as though the three differently paced sections had been written by three different people.

I also did not enjoy the constant switching between tenses, which drove me totally batty. This is a literary device which sometimes does work, especially under the tutelage of a skilled editor, but this book alas fell a bit short. The book seems to have gotten a fair amount of praise, which is a bit surprising to me, actually. I’m wondering if it’s one of those sorts of books that I will appreciate more in 20 years.

Writing this review, I had a tough time, as this book was one of the ones which was sent to me, so I feel kind of bad trashing it like this, because I assume that whoever sent it really liked it. And this review is in no way meant to impinge on someone’s literary taste. But I do feel that honesty is the best policy, and after all I only promised to read all of the books which were sent to me; I didn’t say anything about liking them. I’m hoping that as the Book Project develops, people start discussing the books in the comments, and that maybe I’ll benefit from the perspective of others.

I was talking about this issue on my walk today, because I had loaned my friend my copy of The Sparrow, which is probably one of my favourite books of all time. And she just didn’t really like it; she started reading, and couldn’t get into it, and she sounded like she felt kind of guilty for it. But I don’t think she needs to feel guilty at all. Obviously people have different tastes in art, literature, music, and so forth, and these differing tastes are what make the arts so diverse and interesting. It’s just a fact of life that not everyone likes The Sparrow, for example, no matter how much I love it. This doesn’t make those people “wrong,” it just makes them different, and I give them credit for giving the book a shot anyway and expanding their horizons. For me, this is what the Book Project is all about, and it’s why I am actively soliciting suggestions (and books) from readers, because the best way to expand my mind is to push it.


The Travelling Horn Player, by Barbara Trapido. Published 1998, 245 pages. Fiction.

3 Replies to “Book Twelve: The Travelling Horn Player”

  1. just fyi, i had to re-input the rss feed thing to google reader to get it to show up… for some reason it wasn’t showing up so i went back to the site and re-did it. but that is possibly my incompetence!

  2. For the last several days Bloglines has put a little red error mark next to the title of your feed, and I haven’t seen any new posts. Today it’s back to normal.

Comments are closed.