Reading this at the moment. Am in no state to write my own.
Review by Kara Nicholson for Readings
Jessie Tu has worked as a classical violinist, teacher and journalist. This is her first work of fiction and it is an astonishing debut. The lonely girl at the heart of this novel is Jena Lin. Jena’s grandfather was a famous pianist and child prodigy in China. In Australia, Jena was also once considered a child prodigy. By the age of fourteen she had won seven international violin competitions and the chance to play a solo with the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall. During the performance she had a public meltdown and retreated from the limelight. Her grandfather always said that it was the destiny of the talented to suffer and to fulfill their excessive needs at any cost.
Now in her twenties, Jena lives in Sydney and has begun to play the violin again. She is auditioning along with her best friend for a permanent orchestral role in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Jena’s daily routine of practice and rehearsal is relentless, and she can be unpleasant and prickly. She also considers herself to be a sex addict. In the absence of the attention and acclaim given to a soloist musician she finds random sex with a variety of men almost as fulfilling. Her needs are excessive, but she will meet them at any cost.
Jena gets the job but loses her best friend in the process. She then meets Mark, who is in a long-term relationship with someone else. Mark is rich, middle aged, racist and sexist, but self-sabotaging Jena is drawn to him. She is lonely. There is such a disconnect between Jena Lin the gifted Australian violinist and Jena Lin the sex addict that the decisions she makes are heartbreaking. Jena then wins an internship with the New York Philharmonic and her life seems about to change for the better. She moves to New York just as Trump is elected and the experience is not quite what she expected.
This is a fascinating and intense debut that challenges systemic racism and misogyny, particularly in the progressive artistic world. It is confronting but it is also brilliant and original. Jessie Tu is an incredible new voice in Australian literature.
All I can do is keep moving, organising, dodging the bullets, avoiding reality, the knowledge erupting from the deepest core of my being.
Feeling nothing, feeling everything, feeling wrong, feeling bad, feeling sad, feeling completely and utterly alone and, yes, lonely. No drugs to dull the pain, to send me into blissful numbness – scared of losing a day, an hour, a minute. Yet I continue to lose track of days, reality and facts – leaving me more vulnerable to the black crows of death.
I was the secret keeper – so good at my job that I have even hidden them from me. But they are there, making their presence known, stirring themselves awake, slowly moving and growing bigger. They are tired of being bound to silence, to coffins full of dirt, to the very darkness that was once a safe place. The secrets threaten to destroy the very essence of this body, we are hanging on by the tips of our fingernails, slowly sliding down the cliff, nails ripped off, bleeding, unable to claw our way back up or to stop the fall.
Falling so silently – no one hears my screams, my cries of agony and loneliness. I’ve never been heard or saved – only pushed over the edge to be “caught” by the very person who pushed me to my limits.
I have nothing more to give. Nothing more to stop my world crumbling into the abyss. I yearn to curl up into a ball, screaming into my arms, crying until I have no more tears left until tomorrow. I need a safe place to fall apart – I’m not sure I’ll make it out alive.
The darkness within is unknown, yet felt deeply and painfully, with glimpses into the past horrors I cannot believe exist. The surreal feeling of being damaged, toxic goods, never good enough, easy to leave and being left constantly. My only consistent companions are the secret keepers and those that protect us – even when they hurt us.
We are screaming for help, yet requesting it quietly, with dignity, purpose and focus. As long as we continue to look like we are functioning we are ok. Yet the strength and energy required to keep up the facade has taken its toll – I am a husk, a shell of a person. Never been whole.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, a circus of merry-go-rounds that I don’t want to be on, rides I cannot get off, tunnels of pain, laughter, confusion and distorted mirrors. Is the light real? Or a kaleidoscope of images that lead nowhere except down the rabbit hole.