Who you are goes far beyond what you look like. My hope is that Ray’s story will inspire all of you—white or Black, Asian or Native American, straight or gay, transgender or cisgender, blond or dark haired, tall or short, big feet or small—to do what you love. Inspire those around you to do what they love, too. It might just pay off. Alone, we are a solitary violin, a lonely flute, a trumpet singing in the dark. Together, we are a symphony. ― Brendan Slocumb, The Violin Conspiracy
This summer I have gone on so many road trips to do some college tours. During the last few drives my family and I listened to The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb. The Violin Conspiracy was a multi-layered ‘whodunit’ type of mystery that didn’t include murder. As an avid reader, I did guess ‘whodunit’ fairly early in the book and I wanted to continue listening to it because I wanted to ultimately know if my hunch was right, and I was intrigued on how the events that would lead up to the revealing of the truth, would play out.
Ray McMillian loves playing the violin more than anything, and nothing will stop him from pursuing his dream of becoming a professional musician. Not his mother, who thinks he should get a real job, not the fact that he can’t afford a high-caliber violin, not the racism inherent in the classical music world. And when he makes the startling discovery that his great-grandfather’s fiddle is actually a priceless Stradivarius, his star begins to rise. Then with the international Tchaikovsky Competition—the Olympics of classical music—fast approaching, his prized family heirloom is stolen. Ray is determined to get it back. But now his family and the descendants of the man who once enslaved Ray’s great-grandfather are each claiming that the violin belongs to them. With the odds stacked against him and the pressure mounting, will Ray ever see his beloved violin again?
Here are some of the things that I liked about the book:
- The audiobook was on point. Listening to this book was a treat. The narration was
great and in addition to the wonderful classical music that was played. This is one of the times I would say – LISTEN TO THE BOOK!
- The characters. Ray’s family with their very different personalities made this book enjoyable to me. The family drama was quite entertaining. His mom was something else. She was on the other end of the personality spectrum than his darling grandma. I even enjoyed the friendships/relationships he had with those outside his family. Ray himself was a treasure to get to know.
- FUN FACT ABOUT ME: I learned how to play the violin in elementary school. I also took private lessons. However, it just wasn’t something I was passionate about, so I stop playing. This book brought up memories and knowledge that I have when it comes to playing the violin and I also learned so much more about the instrument, classical music, the prestige behind being good, and how valuable some of the instruments are.
- The Author’s Note. You know how when you get to the end of the book, and you are like wow – great story and then you stop to digest the ending and you don’t listen to the author’s note?! Word of advice especially if you love the book DO NOT SKIP THE AUTHOR’S NOTE. It was a story itself. The author explains why he wrote this book and the struggles he and other black violinists have gone through and still go through today due to the ugliness of racism. This book showcases the stereotype that blacks don’t belong in the classical music world because it’s not our type of musical. Honestly, this book is a true reminder that racism is everywhere.
My cousin Dr. Tyler Taylor is a Horn player and Composer of Contemporary Instrumental Music (You can check him out here tylertaylorcomposer.com) I wonder with him being of mixed race has he experience some degree of racism. I am going to recommend this book to him and start the discussion on how things have been for him. His possible struggles and what barriers if any he had to go through to feel okay within his amazing career. To me knowing how others overcome adversary makes me see and understand they went through it and so can I. These are tough conversations to have but they are necessary.
Respect yourself and people will respect you, too.
― Brendan Slocumb, The Violin Conspiracy
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I am only giving it a 4-Star rating only because as a seasoned reader, I figured out ‘whodunit’ early in the book. I was hoping that my assumption wasn’t true, but it was unfortunately! Despite the fact I knew ‘whodunit’ I found it to be a page turner (even though I was listening to it). Looking for an intriguing book– pick this book up – NO let me take that back – Download the audible and LISTEN TO IT !
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