Music and Freedom

Zoë Morrison

Music and Freedom
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Music and Freedom

Zoë Morrison

Winner of the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction 2016

A gripping and beautifully written novel in the tradition of Elizabeth is Missing and the work of Elizabeth Harrower.

I have no use for forgiveness, not yet. But other ideas like that, kindness, for example, I think that is fundamental. Resurrection; I like that too. And love, of course, love, love, love.

Alice Murray learns to play the piano aged three on an orange orchard in rural Australia. Recognising her daughter’s gift, her mother sends Alice to boarding school in the bleak north of England, and there Alice stays for the rest of her childhood. Then she’s offered a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London, and on a summer school in Oxford she meets Edward, an economics professor who sweeps her off her feet.

Alice soon finds that Edwards is damaged, and she’s trapped. She clings to her playing and to her dream of becoming a concert pianist, until disaster strikes. Increasingly isolated as the years unravel, eventually Alice can’t find it in herself to carry on. Then she hears the most beautiful music from the walls of her house…

This novel’s love story is that of a woman who must embrace life again if she is to survive. Inspiring and compelling, it explores the dark terrain of violence and the transformative powers of music and love.

Review

‘Perhaps’, says Alice as the narrator in the opening pages, ‘I could blame Romantic music for what happened. It is, she says, the triumph of fantasy over reality.’ Music and Freedom, however, is not about a fantastical life; it centres on Alice’s lonely and painful reality. By bringing this character to life Morrison considers carefully the notion of freedom, and how a creative life can either facilitate or subtract from that position.

Music and Freedom is the fictional story of Alice Murray’s life, a musician from rural Australia. Recognising her daughter’s gift, her mother sends a very young Alice to boarding school in Yorkshire. From school, Alice is offered a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London, and at a summer school in Oxford she meets Edward, an economics professor who becomes her husband and her keeper. She does not return to Australia during this time, although she dreams of her birth country. We meet Alice in her later years, as she reflects on her life and the choices that have been made on her behalf. Sovereignty was not hers throughout her life, but it is through music that Alice finds the means to become, finally, independent and to travel home.

Morrison’s descriptions of Alice’s life in England in the 1950s and 1960s illustrate perfectly the patriarchal society of the time. The insidious nature of violence within marriage is also epitomised with care and respect. This is a wise novel that brings with the story a wonderful sense of music and passion. Morrison’s writing is perfectly paced and at times very beautiful. This novel is for those who love the writing of Anna Goldsworthy, Alice Pung and Elizabeth Jolley. I adore a story of redemption, and also of resilience. This debut novel is sonnet to both.


Chris Gordon is the Events Manager for Readings.

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