Review: A Darker Music by Maris Morton


Title: A Darker Music

Author: Maris Morton

Publisher: Scribe Publications

Sypnosis: When Mary Lanyon takes on the job of temporary housekeeper at Downe, a famous Merino stud, she is looking forward to staying in a gracious homestead with the wealthy Hazlitt family. The owner’s wife, Clio, has been ill, and Mary’s task is to get the house back into shape in the lead-up to the wedding of the only son and heir, Martin.  When she arrives, however, Mary realises things are not right. Clio Hazlitt rarely ventures from her room. The house is shabby, redolent of dust and secrets. As a friendship develops between the women, Mary discovers answers to the questions that have puzzled her: What is the nature of Clio’s illness? What has caused the grim estrangement between Clio and her husband? And why did Clio give up playing music, when she says it meant so much to her?

Status: Read from November 04 to 05, 2010 — I own a copy
My Thoughts:

Mary accepts a position as the temporary housekeeper at Downe, a merino stud, set in the Western Australia bush. Instead of the gracious homestead she is expecting, Downe is a home of secrets and shadows.
A Darker Music is a haunting and lyrical novel of quiet tragedy. The writing is elegant and evocative, the pace simmers with quiet anxiety and dread. Morton incorporates the lifestyle and minutae of the farm operations and creates a sense of place with lush descriptions of the station and its surroundings. Yet they are simply a backdrop to the finely crafted characters. The physical isolation of the merino stud mirrors the emotional isolation of the homesteads inhabitants.
A Darker Music is really Clio’s story. At first Clio is barely tolerable, until Morton skilfully reveals Clio’s past and present as she takes Mary into her confidence. Once a promising musician, Clio has endured unbearable loss, and we slowly learn the truth of her heartbreaking circumstances.
Father and son, Paul and Martin, are brooding and silent men. It is through Clio’s story that we learn their true character. Their brooding presence, and absence, is cleverly exploited by Morton.
The lesser characters provide interesting context and contrast to the main characters.
A Darker Music is an incredible debut novel, quiet and dark, there is no happy ending. The stunning climax will haunt me for sometime yet.
Just an interesting aside, A Darker Music was the winner of the inaugural Scribe Fiction Prize. Maris Morton is 72 and this is her first novel.
@ Goodreads

*I won a copy of this novel from the publisher through the Goodreads FirstReads program

5 Comments (+add yours?)

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  3. Rebecca Glenn
    Nov 07, 2010 @ 00:40:45

    Thanks for posting a link to this review on The Book Frog’s Reading Roundup. I’m intrigued!



  4. Pauline Lyons
    Nov 14, 2010 @ 09:50:59

    What a compulsive read is this book. It is the wonderful use of words which make descriptive pictures of the characters in the story, the setting in a W.A.district and detail of the workings of a sheep property and life on the land that make it a book to ‘just keep reading’ My eyes are red, stinging and fuzzy from a long session of reading last night and first thing this morning.

    I confess, at first I thought there was too much description, after reading the first four or five chapters, so moved to the last chapter, the second last and then the pentultimate one. Got the ending but then became hooked as to what happened in the middle of the book.

    This is where I really appreciated the descriptive passages, the detail of the story line and became immersed in a new world for me which the author has created.

    Now I’m on the internet to discover more about Maris Morton, a person with such a command of English (well she did teach English), who has a wonderful appreciation of the countryside and its characters (she worked on a property) but still have to learn about her seemingly intimate knowledge of classical music.

    Maris Morton, you have given me so much to think about. I’m so pleased my friend handed me the book saying “Read this, you’ll really enjoy it. She’s a great writer”.

    Best wishes,
    Pauline Lyons
    15 Gladstone Pde



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