Stradi’s Violin, by Blenda Bligh

Stradi’s Violin
by Blenda Bligh
Publish America
Copyright 2007
Paperback, 295 pages, $24.95

This novel spans many years and involves many characters. At its center, it’s the story of Ellen Gibson, a beautiful woman who is propelled to make the biggest mistake of her life–or so it seems–in the name of motherly love.

At the beginning of the story, during the Great Depression, Ellen finds herself cornered. Not only is she pregnant, but her husband has left her with two young children to support, there’s no food left, and the rent for her shack is three weeks overdue. To make matters worse, she’s fired from her job at a hat shop because of a rich, arrogant lady named Amanda McGowan.

A little after she’s fired, the rich lady pays her a strange visit… and it is then that Ellen receives the shocking proposal, a proposal Ellen must not turn down for her own sake as that of her children. Ellen’s decision has major consequences and affects the lives of various characters later in the story.

As the years pass, the reader follows Ellen’s and Amanda’s lives and their family relationships as well as their secret connection to one another. No women could be more opposite. While Ellen is the embodiment of kindness and resignation, Amanda is the perfect example of selfishness and greed. Later on, the plot revolves around their children as they grow to young adults and eventually become romantically involved.

Though the novel has a good premise, and the author has an enthusiasm for writing that comes through the pages, I found the novel disappointing because of several reasons.

The characters of Ellen and Amanda are stereotypical to the point of being cartoonish. No one can be so good or so evil. So in this sense, I found no complexity in the characters. Even a villain must have human characteristics at times. I also don’t understand why the author chose to make Amanda deaf, as this particular trait doesn’t play any kind of role in the plot. I kept waiting for the moment when her deafness would become somehow significant in the story, but the moment never came.

As for Ellen, all I can say is that Melanie Hamilton in Gone with the Wind , in all her incredible goodness, at least was smart. But Ellen is so unbelievably good she falls in the ‘dumb’ category. A protagonist who is good must have character and substance to accompany this goodness.

Another aspect of the novel that broke my suspension of disbelief is that the author chooses to tell big chunks of the story instead of showing them with action and dialogue. Because of this, the novel reads like a synopsis at times. I feel the book would have been improved if the author had taken the time to flesh out these segments instead of simply relating what one character says to another without using active dialogue.

Furthermore, many of the character confrontations, especially toward the end of the book, read like a script from a soap opera–tilted and predictable, and there are abrupt switches of point of view in the same page without a double space between the paragraphs, so you find yourself suddenly realizing that you’re in another character’s mind and in a completely different setting. This was very annoying.

Finally–and this is by far the most disappointing aspect of the book–the author obviously failed to do any research about violin playing and violinists. For instance, she puts the young violinist in the story, only five years old, playing a full-size Stradivarious. The way this character is described when playing the violin is superficial and doesn’t ring true. There is no ‘feeling’ in these descriptions, those musical feelings so well described by musicians who write fiction or at least by those non-musician authors who conduct research before setting to write this type of scene.

And last, the cover of the book and the title are misleading. The novel has nothing to do with violins or violinists. Only that one secondary character mentioned is a child violinist, but violin music doesn’t play a role in the story.

In sum, Stradi’s Violin reads like a first draft and has too many technical problems for me to recommend it. Bligh’s writing flows very nicely at times and, as I said, her love for storytelling comes through. Unfortunately, these things aren’t enough to publish a book. What this novel needs is a good professional editor.

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Blenda Bligh on February 10, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    I thinks she really missed the point – the story was never intended to be about the violin. The story is about a young girl – Jenny McGowan – it is an epic romance. If you like romance this is your book. The characters are interesting – that’s why I made Amanda deaf – why does there have to be a point to her being deaf?


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