“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” - Mark Twain
I read a novel recently and enjoyed it thoroughly. It is “Maestro” by Peter Goldsworthy (published 1989). The author was born in Minlaton, South Australia, in 1951 and he grew up in various country towns, finishing his schooling in Darwin. Since graduating in medicine from the University of Adelaide, he has devoted his time equally to medicine and writing. He is married to a fellow graduate and they have three children. Peter Goldsworthy has published six collections of poetry, including “This Goes With That: Selected Poems 1970-1990”. He is the author of seven collections of short fiction, including “Little Deaths”, and seven novels, including “Honk if You Are Jesus” and “Wish”. He has won numerous awards including the Commonwealth Poetry Prize and an Australian Bicentennial Literary Award.
“Maestro” is a semi-autobiographical work set in the Australian city of Darwin. This is a city that is small and tropical, a port, half-outback, half-oriental, lying at the tip of North Australia. The hero of the novel is Paul Crabbe, a newly arrived adolescent to Darwin from Adelaide, in the South. There, he encounters Eduard Keller, the ‘maestro’ of the title, a Viennese refugee with a mysterious past. Their first meeting is the occasion of a piano lesson, what is to be the first of many.
The novel is a coming of age story, charming in its simplicity - if one looks at it superficially. However, there are deeper currents to be plumbed: What is perfection in art, what defines beauty, how do we distinguish talent from simple proficiency, what is genius? All of these are questions posed by Peter Goldsworthy in the context of the piano lessons that form the backbone of the story. It is a novel that traces Paul’s voyage into maturity, a maturity that is achieved through suffering. It is a study of the perceived and self-constructed conceit and infallibility of youth into the doubt, greater understanding and humbleness of maturity. It is a chronicle of the birth of a talented artist, even though that artist is not fated to become a genius of his art.
I greatly enjoyed the novel and recommend it unreservedly to anybody who likes to read a book with a little bit more substance to it than airport paperbacks, but at the same time it is a book that is easily approached and enjoyed because its language is simple, direct and unpretentious.
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