Barbara Trapido, “Sex and Stravinsky”

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.”

Watteau's "Love in the Italian Theatre" -- the kind of thing Josh Silver adores.

Watteau’s “Love in the Italian Theatre” — the kind of thing Josh Silver adores.

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.

About carolwallace

I spend most of my time writing and reading. Most recent publications: the reissue of "To Marry an English Lord,"one of the inspirations for "Downton Abbey," and the historical novel "Leaving Van Gogh." I am too cranky to belong to a book group but I love the book-blogging community.
This entry was posted in Africa, anglophilia, contemporary fiction and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Barbara Trapido, “Sex and Stravinsky”

  1. Alex says:

    Yes, any Trapido indeed. This isn’t my favourite either, but Trapido is one of the authors on my list to be read as soon as a new book is availbale. I just wish there wasn’t so long between books.

  2. whatmeread says:

    I love Barbara Trapido, and I just realized that I haven’t read anything by her in several years. I’ll try this one out.

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