What a lovely treat to have read Strum, to travel to new places and times or old places but with a different cultural viewpoint...Chartreuse Notre-Dame to French Indochina and Nepal. There is the almost magic realism of two beautifully crafted guitars...a glimpse into the art of such a craft, and some wonderful descriptive passages. I love a tale where I might learn and Strum is all of that amidst love and loss...
This is a book that I truly savor little by little. I normally read fast paced mystery/thriller, would often stay up late, and be tired the next day, I brought Strum after I met Nancy and so glad I did. Strum “is a journey, not a destination.” I did not feel rushed to get to the end, to find out what will happen next because it’s beautifully written and well paced for leisure reading.
Awesome, passionate, moving saga. So well written that you feel you are right there. The imagery painted with Nancy's words is fantastic.
Jacob Sebastiani's above reflections might be thought of as the guiding principle which characterizes Nancy Young's premier novel, Strum, a non-chronological, spiritual exploration of self-discovery, desire, and unconquerable love. Love between individuals, and love for the unplanned life. In an intricate cross-cultural tale about a multigenerational, partly accidental family, Young creates warm, compassionate, believable, and ultimately human characters that seek self-understanding and love by transcending their usual personal and geographical boundaries in hopes of finding something fulfilling and true in themselves. Each fascinating character discovers along the path the inevitable hardships of passionate love, cultural boundaries, surprise, slighted expectations, and heartbreak, before experiencing some sort of eventual redemption. Imbued with the spirituality of the greatest international language, music, Young demonstrates her deep awareness of the challenges and beauty of international living. Strum gives us a glimpse into a very personal American-European-Asian universe that reads like biography, historical fiction, romance, fairy tale, ghost-story, travel-guide, music appreciation text, and prayer all at once. It acclaims the inter-connectivity of everything, living and material, that weaves the tapestry of a life well-lived. It is an audacious and marvelous first novel and I look forward to Ms. Young's future work. ~ Theo J. van Joolen [The Fairy Poet of New York]
Strum has a very interesting story and good details throughout. Be prepared to travel around the world and get a lesson in history. This is a relaxing book to read at the end of the day.
Nancy Young is a born storyteller. Her fine writing reflects the gifts of compelling characterization and descriptive clarity enhanced by her graceful literary style. From the beginning, the book echoes her deep respect for this hypnotic tale. It is a must-read!
Nancy Young’s novel Strum begins with a French epigram from 17th century French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal that essentially communicates the idea that “the heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing about.” It’s one of Pascal’s better known aphorisms. But the more deeply I read into this poignant and compelling book, the more I kept thinking back to another of Pascal’s oft-cited quotes, rendered in English as “If we examine our thoughts, we shall find them always occupied with the past and the future.”
Strum not only exemplifies that idea, as well as the tidal pull of time in the sea-changes of our lives, but Young has structured her novel according to that principle, with chapters leaping back and forth in time, from the 1800's to the year 2000. The novel also leaps about in place, from the Canadian hinterlands to the French Alps, from Southeast Asia to Australia.
To describe Strum, with all its digressions and excavations, would make it sound like a complex creation worthy of Pascal himself as it wends its way through a labyrinth of six generations, but the novel is really quite simple, and Young does a great job of keeping the string of significant events hummingly clear. The fulcrum of the book is music, or perhaps “sound” would be a better way of saying it, as sounds both heard and sensed comprise much of the charm and fabric of the book. More specifically, the music of a hand-crafted set of guitars provides the soundtrack to the lives of scores of noteworthy characters one meets within the pages of Strum.
The central conceit of the book – and the pulsating rhythm of its plot – involves how the music of these particular guitars connects a multi-generational mixed race family and the lovers and others who comprise their aural sects as we follow them through time. The novel opens with a vignette of magical realism: a deaf woodworker follows an eerie, enchanting music he hears in a dream, taking him deep into a forest, stalking the source of his nocturnal delight amid the centuries-old cedars that spire skyward.
What follows is an exhausting and exhilarating adventure, taking the readers from the tumult of timber mills to the somnolence of cloistered convents, and later, from the dark and threatening jungle to the stately resplendence of the modern opera house. All along the way, the writing (like the music that floats though the text) remains lush and ornamental, rococo in its rhetorical coloration: “Her fingers flew up and down the fret board marking out a recuerdo both passionate and lamenting…her gypsy soul found a platform in the soundboard of the instrument and with it the dying embers of her passionate spirit were rekindled and stoked into a blaze. Each rising arpeggio was an ascent into the upper reaches of a Vesuvius summit and the descents a plunge into infinite sobriety.”
If such impassioned and emotionally heightened language (unfairly taken out of context here, I concede) seems a bit overheated, it might be best to again remember Pascal, who argued that the fundamental truths of human existence could not be stated, or discovered, through the cold filter of reason. In Strum, Nancy Young affirms that principle in prose that would likely have left Pascal nodding in affirmation.