Lucy Beck-Moreau once had a promising future as a concert pianist. The right people knew her name, her performances were booked months in advance, and her future seemed certain.
That was all before she turned 14.
Now, at 16, it's over. A death, and a betrayal, led her to walk away. That leaves her talented 10-year-old brother, Gus, to shoulder the full weight of the Beck-Moreau family expectations. Then Gus gets a new piano teacher who is young, kind, and interested in helping Lucy rekindle her love of piano - on her own terms. But when you're used to performing for sold-out audiences and world-famous critics, can you ever learn to play just for yourself?
National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr takes listeners inside the exclusive world of privileged San Francisco families, top junior music competitions, and intense mentorships. The Lucy Variations is a story of one girl's struggle to reclaim her love of music and herself. It's about finding joy again, even when things don't go according to plan. Because life isn't a performance, and everyone deserves the chance to make a few mistakes along the way.
In The Lucy Variations, sixteen-year-old piano virtuoso Lucy walks out on an important competition in Prague and abruptly quits playing altogether. Her family keeps a family tragedy secret from her so she doesn’t lose focus on the competition, and this is the last straw for Lucy. Her grandfather and mother totally micro-manage her career and she’s had enough. Eight months later, Lucy hasn’t played a note and now she’s passed the piano bench on to her younger brother Gus. When Gus’s elderly tutor dies during a piano lesson, a new instructor named Will is brought in.
Lucy didn’t think her days of playing the piano were over exactly but since her controlling grandfather washed his hands of her she feels cut off from the piano. Now she has time to explore San Francisco with her friends, hang out with Gus, and decide what else she wants to do with her life. The new piano tutor Will is familiar with Lucy’s career and wants to help her rediscover her love for music on her own terms. And things get a little messy between them.
The Beck-Moreau family is very wealthy and Lucy has a lot of options available to her. I felt for her that it was all or nothing with the piano and I wanted her to get her mojo back. But on the other hand, she’s a little infuriating at times. She can be a pretty bad friend, and her morals are sketchy as well. I cut her some slack due to her horrible parental role models- her grandfather is truly awful and her parents don’t do anything about it. Her mother even gives her the third degree about the elderly piano teachers death as if she was somehow to blame. So in terms of the characters it wasn’t always easy to connect though the story is compelling.
The author, Sara Zarr herself, narrates the audiobook. She’s actually read a few of her books though this is the first one I’ve listened to. One thing that’s very cool about the audiobook production is that short snippets of music are included in the story. So when Lucy is talking about performing a piece of music, the piano parts are overlaid in the story. I get nervous when authors narrate their books since usually their forte is writing, not voice acting. But on the other hand, they know the story inside and out so sometimes it works out. Zarr’s reading is low-key and her voice is pleasant to listen to. She’s subtle with the character voices, but I was actually impressed with how much personality she puts into the characters without overdoing it. She makes the characters come alive but doesn’t sound unnatural doing it, so kudos to Zarr. I think I’ll check out her narration on Story of a Girl next.
I think if you have an interest in contemporary YA with a musical theme you’ll especially appreciate this book.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
This wasn't destined to be a book I love because I'm fairly uninterested in the lives of musical prodigies. But there was, of course, more to the story and it was well done so I did end up enjoying it. The author narrates quite well, and I enjoyed the addition of the background music except the one time it included vocals, which competed with the narration. But overall, I liked it.