This is the first novel by Ruth Sims that I’ve read and I know it won’t be the last. She has crafted a very touching story that made had me so invested in the characters that I cried. I love books that make me cry, that reach me that much.
Counterpoint is a novel about Dylan Rutledge, a young man who wishes to compose music. His tale begins with his final year at the Veneral Bede School for Young Gentlemen. He has been expelled for stealing a Master’s key and using it to get into the church, to play one of his compositions on the huge church organ. But when said elderly Master falls and breaks his leg before a big visit from the Bishop, Laurence Northcliff, a young Master at Bede’s, urges the school to let Dylan come back to take over the musical preparation for the school’s performance for the Bishop. Dylan can come back, granted he doesn’t get into any more shenanigans and his grades improve. Master Northcliff will mentor Dylan himself – and so it begins.
Dylan grows more attached to Laurence the more time they spend together, and the same goes for Laurence. But Laurence is a teacher and their attraction is criminal on England’s shores. Laurence leaves the school to avoid the temptation of Dylan and goes to Paris to write. Dylan misses Laurence and figures the attraction was one sided. Laurence cannot stop thinking about Dylan but figures he’ll move on.
Dylan doesn’t move on but instead comes to Paris to further his musical education. The music he composes is so different from what’s currently en vogue that no one close to him (parents and teachers) believes he can have a successful career as a composer. But Laurence knows Dylan is talented and sets him up with another musician for mentoring.
I want to stop my summary there because I don’t want to give everything away. Just know that there are parts to Counterpoint that are very bittersweet. But from great sorrow comes great happiness and Dylan’s tale is not even close to being finished from where I left off that summary.
So there’s this wonderful story – Dylan is the central character and he’s inspired but with that amount there comes an ego. And Dylan goes through a lot to get his music acknowledged by his peers and the public. It’s definitely not an easy journey. The characters around him really balance Dylan out. They keep him going and their stories are interesting too. We’re really wrapped up in these characters, believe me. I’m still thinking about one in particular and I finished the book days ago.
Another great feat that Ms. Sims has accomplished is the description of the music. Counterpoint takes place towards the later half of the 19th century. Impressionism is an art movement that is gaining a name for itself but the music is still very much Romantic. Dylan’s music is definitely not Romantic and he feels constrained by the ideas of his teachers. This struggle over the music is very central to Dylan’s tale. And it really ties itself to another character, a violinist. One thing I loved was the description of the violin pieces. It’s hard to hear music when you read descriptions, but I feel that Ms. Sims did a wonderful job with Dylan’s music. I wish there was a soundtrack to go along with this book. This book wasn’t just about Dylan, but also about his music.
I really enjoyed Counterpoint and highly recommend it. I loved the references to Impressionist artists, as this is my favorite time period in art history. Also, I play the violin (not that well though) and thought all the musical aspects to this story were interesting.
Definitely read it!