Maybe there’s a pattern here. Maybe Barbara Trapido’s books are mostly based on fairy tales or theater pieces. I’ve been puzzling over her idiosyncratic blend of fantasy and realism. She has a remarkable way of enticing the reader into narratives that don’t actually make much sense. Sex and Stravinsky seems to push the standard even further from naturalism, with a hefty dose of mirrored characters and stupendous coincidence. All of it totally enjoyable, by the way. Then I found this sentence about Josh Silver, a puckish man from a difficult background. Josh is an academic who focuses on drama, particularly where it borders mime and dance. Baroque opera, for instance. “Given Josh’s life experience, it’s no surprise that he avoids confrontation; avoids rejection; prefers emotion contained and stylized, as in those ingenious comedic structures. He prefers life choreographed by acrobats and floating on verbal dexterity.”
Oh — you mean artificial? Light goes off in my head. That’s what Trapido’s doing in Sex and Stravinsky! It’s got an ingenious comedic structure. Its emotion is contained and stylized. Which is a good thing, considering the childhoods Trapido has given to three out of four members of her principal quartet of characters. Two husbands, two wives. England, South Africa. Two surly teenage daughters. Disappearing and reappearing fortunes. Even witches, possibly. References to Stravinsky’s ballet Pulcinella occur, and there’s a general sense of the plot moving by clockwork that might owe something to commedia dell’arte.
So I can’t say this is my favorite Trapido novel despite its charm. And ballet. And Africa. But I would never pass up reading one of her books — any Trapido is better than none.