Jackie Kay’s mesmerizing and powerfully moving first novel is about the extraordinary life and seeming dissolution of a family — about the boundaries of identity and the essential nature of love.
At its center is Joss Moody, a celebrated jazz trumpeter who created music that convinced everyone who heard it that they knew the man who made it. But Joss’s death has proved them all wrong: Joss Moody lived his life inside a stunning secret. His wife, Millie, had known about it. But their adopted son, Colman, now in his thirties, has just learned of it. With everything he understood about himself and his family thrown into question, Colman forms an uncomfortable alliance with a journalist intent on telling Joss’s story her own way. Millie, grieving and besieged by the press, secludes herself in their home in a small Scottish village, sinking into the aching solace of memory.
Their two brilliantly realized voices — one revisiting the past for comfort, the other for answers — are interwoven with the equally evocative voices of Joss’s drummer, of the doctor who discovered Joss’s secret, of the funeral director who hid it for the last time, of the registrar of death certificates, and of the journalist. Together they reveal the startling and poignant story of Joss and Millie: how a complex, dazzling lie became the foundation for a family, a life, and a rare, unshakable love.
Starkly beautiful, emotionally charged, and wholly unexpected,Trumpet delves into the most intimate workings of the human heart and mind. It is a bravura performance and a triumphant debut.
Here’s this book about gender identity and interracial love, set in Scotland at a time when interracial relationships would’ve raised a few eyebrows, that really should’ve had a bigger impact on me. Nearly three years have gone by since I’ve read it and I still can’t decide how I feel about Trumpet. Maybe frustrated. Definitely frustrated, because I just wanted more from this besides the amazing prose. I wanted to like this more, but I just couldn’t, and that might be the most frustrating part.
This review originally appeared on Goodreads.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I can’t pin down how I really feel about this book. It definitely stays with you, but still feels sort of unresolved. Maybe that’s not quite it either.
I get it; Millie’s love was truly unconditional. She loved Joss from the moment she saw him, knowing nothing about him. And you see Colman’s journey back to loving his father in the same way, or just realizing that he still loved him. But, I still felt Joss was missing in a way. We didn’t really get to know this person who lived this lie or why he did it. Jazz wasn’t it, not alone. Joss became almost a plot device instead of a central character.
I’m also of 2 minds about the author’s poetry background. While it makes her prose eloquent, it also got in the way of the narrative. The one section of the book that was Joss’s perspective was so convoluted, it added nothing to the development of the character. It was just pretty writing for the sake of pretty writing. Or maybe that was the point.
Maybe once this sinks in and I have time to process it, I’ll feel one way or another about Trumpet, but right now, I’m just ‘eh’.