Sex and Stravinsky, By Barbara Trapido
The good, the bad and the ballet
Sunday 15 May 2011
"Oh dear yes – the novel tells a story," said E M Forster, and Barbara Trapido has taken his words to heart.
The narrative pulls you in from page one and you just want to know what will happen to these people. There's Josh, a diminutive, curly-haired academic, his six-foot, intellectual Amazon wife Caroline, and their ballet-loving daughter, who all live in a bus together, and there's Caroline's rebarbative mother; while over in Durban, there is Josh's former flame Harriet, a writer of ballet books for children, her domineering Boer husband, and their stroppy teenage daughter;. And then there's Jack, a mixed-race, self-educated South African of mysterious provenance. All these lives are deftly plaited together in a clever, surprise-filled, pleasingly symmetrical and utterly compelling story. This is a novel in which even inanimate objects – a tutu, some china Hummel figurines, a silver writing desk – become characters.
Trapido is particularly good at writing horrible characters, and you are never in any doubt about whose side you're on. The sharp distinction between the nice characters and the nasty ones affords a Harry Potterish kind of pleasure, but there's a more intellectual satisfaction to be had in the grace of the writing, the psychological insight and the acrobatics of Trapido's imagination. Think Anne Tyler crossed with Iris Murdoch.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food