An Equal Music

Six years after his massive Indian epic A Suitable Boy, Seth returns with a more modest work set in the world of British classical music in An Equal Music. Narrator Michael Holme, the second violinist in a respected London string quartet called the Maggiore, rediscovers his first love, pianist Julia McNicholl. Not only is Julia now married with a young son, she’s also going deaf. The scenes that find Michael among the fractious Maggiore are wonderful. But the love story sags under the soapy deafness subplot (when Julia tries out for a spot as a Maggiore accompanist, the double meaning of the word audition is painfully transparent). In literature, as in music, nuance makes all the difference. B-