A Kaleidoscopic Debut Novel About Love, Family, Genius, And The Madness Of Art, Circling The Life Of Eccentric Composer Erik Satie And La Belle Poque Paris, From A Writer Who Is Wildly Entertaining San Francisco Chronicle , Startlingly Ingenious Boston Globe , And Impressively Sharp New York Times Book Review Erik Satie Begins Life With Every Possible Advantage But After The Dual Blows Of His Mother S Early Death And His Father S Breakdown Upend His Childhood, Erik And His Younger Siblings Louise And Conrad Are Scattered Later, As An Ambitious Young Composer, Erik Flings Himself Into The Parisian Art Scene, Aiming For Greatness But Achieving Only Notoriety As The Years, Then Decades, Pass, He Alienates Those In His Circle As Often As He Inspires Them, Lashing Out At Friends And Lovers Like Claude Debussy And Suzanne Valadon Only Louise And Conrad Are Steadfast Allies Together They Strive To Maintain Their Faith In Their Brother S Talent And Hold Fast The Badly Frayed Threads Of Family But In A Journey That Will Take Her From Normandy To Paris To Argentina, Louise Is Rocked By A Severe Loss That Ultimately Forces Her Into A Reckoning With How Erik Obsessed With His Art And Hungry For Fame Will Never Be The Brother She S Wished ForWith Her Buoyant, Vivid Reimagination Of An Iconic Artist S Eventful Life, Caitlin Horrocks Has Written A Captivating And Ceaselessly Entertaining Novel About The Tenacious Bonds Of Family And The Costs Of Greatness, Both To Ourselves And To Those We Love On February 18, 2018, we attended the Detroit Symphony Orchestra s French Festival to hear Claude Debussy s orchestration of Erik Satie s Gymnop dies Nos.1 3 along with music by Dukas, Saint Saens, and Offenbach.I had not realized previously how much I loved French music I wanted to attend every one of the concerts The two Gymnopedies were the only music by Satie performed during the festival only because Debussy had orchestrated them The music Satie wrote before he was twenty two years old is his best known Reading Caitlin Horrocks debut novel The Vexations I realized how little I knew about French composers and La Belle poque Paris.The Vexations centers on the life of the composer Erik Satie 1866 1925 , bringing to life Paris s Bohemian society of eccentric and cutting edge artists The novel also tells the story of Erik s siblings, separated as orphans after their mother s death Conrad Satie leads a respectable life as a chemist in a perfume factory Louise is a talented musician whose short lived marriage leaves her and her son dependent on her in law s wealth.Erik is a frustrating personality, an eccentric genius who would not be shoved into expected boxes artistically or socially People didn t understand his music His love affair with Susan Valadon lasted six months He did not really seem to connect to people or need intimacy During his life he was notorious By the time of his death, his family and even most of his friends were no longer speaking with him In later life, Satie was associated with Surrealism, including writing music for the Ballets Russe, Parade directed by Cocteau with Picasso costumes I became very taken by Louise Satie s story, the limitations society placed on a female Pressured to marry well, she waited for passion And when she found herself a young widow, one night of passion labeled her a whore She clung to her son, but the legal system gave his custody to male relatives She moved to South American and outlived the rest of her family, long enough to discover her brother Erik had become famous, long enough to understand life.Satie s most well known music remains the Gymnopieds.The novel has left me with an earworm, sadness, and a better feel for the society and time that produced some of my favorite music After I finished the novel I discovered Horrocks is a writing instructor at Grand Valley State University And that our son, who graduated from GVSU with a writing major, counted her as one of his best and most favorite professors I was given access to a free ebook by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. Book 4 finished for July 24in48 This is a very intimate novel about the life of Erik Satie and his sister, brother, and two friends who new him well The writing is beautiful, particularly in those chapters from Satie s perspective talking about touch or music, and Horrocks described the Montmartre Satie inhabited so well The chapters from his sister Louise s perspective are interesting they are the only ones told in 1st person I think I figured out why the author made that choice but I don t quite think it was needed. I read 115 pages of this novel and still didn t care about any of the characters I would return to the book each night before bed having forgotten what it was about I picked up another book on my list, read 15 pages and was hooked So.the writing maybe The subject matter The pace Yes, all of those things makes The Vexations too vexing to keep reading I ve said it before and I ll say it again life is too short for bad books. Thanks to a Goodreads giveaway, I enjoyed an advance copy of THE VEXATIONS French composer and pianist Erik Satie lived from 1866 to 1925 and was part of a memorable era of artistic change in Paris Friends and acquaintances such as Claude Debussy, Picasso, Cocteau, Man Ray, and his one love, Suzanne Veladon endured his unpredictable and often fiery temperament while recognizing his exceptional talents Descriptions of Satie include terms such as eccentric, dysfunctional, maverick, avant guarde, irascible, and brilliant, at their extreme levels Were he alive today, he might be treated for mental illness, most likely bipolar disorder His superior intelligence would have made his life difficult as well After his mother died he was separated from his siblings and sent to a boarding school where such a mind as his was unlikely to fit in and be understood Author Caitlin Horrocks takes the reader into his life among the raucous cafe society during his years playing piano as part of the various acts which stretched the limits of morality in Paris at the time The book is a concentric series of stories, changing narrators as we glean the views not only of Erik, but his sister Louise, brother Conrad, friend Philippe, and his love, Suzanne Actually, his sister Louise steals the show much of the time and seems to anchor the saga THE VEXATIONS is a sure hit with its imaginative interpretation of Satie s life, writing that keeps the story flowing and the reader engaged, and a fascinating subject about whom most of us probably know very little A good choice for a book group to share.I am thrilled to find a new novel that has cultural and literary significance. The Vexations by Caitlin Horrocks is a fascinating novel that revolves around the life of Eric Satie, a French composer to be honest, I had never heard of Satie even though I consider myself a lover of music However, after reading this debut novel I can say that i have been given great insight into this remarkable artist The novel entwines the lives of Satie s brother Conrad and of his sister Louise it is sometimes humorous and sometimes heartbreaking, but always honest The book is well written and spellbinding as well as being informative The characters are well developed, especially Louise, who tells much of the story The book delves into the madness often associated with genius and presents the characters in an honest and forthright manner The book is both captivating and entertaining and I highly recommend it. I received a free copy of The Vexations by Caitlin Horrocks through the Good Reads First Reads Giveaway This is a talented author, dealing with difficult subjects She writes about a flawed family, but also includes interesting and unusual characters The eccentric composer Erik Satie and his unusual family are well documented Some readers may want cohesion with the underlying story, while this novel is a collection of short stories dealing with individuals in this unique family She writes about the la Belle Epoque in Paris and this is fascinating but an era I would not want to live in The experiences may be sophisticated, but unattractive to the modern reader. I m totally under this book s spell The Vexations is as funny as it is beautiful It s about making art in the big city, but it s also about the absurdity of playing the role of a Great Artist It s about family and how deep those ties can cut, but it s also about the leeway we give our most ridiculous loved ones It s about Belle Epoque Paris, with all of its rowdy salons and ink stained studios, but it s also about how much it sucks to be full of ideas while nursing empty stomachs and pockets Every character is drawn with rueful empathy, and you ll love them all, including the bombastic Erik. Strong historical romance centered around the eccentric composer Erik Satie and his family Beautiful characterization and period detail A few quibbles, like the inconsistent and unhistoric use of first names between adult men, and the need to invent a fictional character Philippe when the real Contamine de Latour who he was based on was available Still, an impressive novel. While this is a well written account of the life of Erik Satie sad, but compelling compositions , I found it to be somewhat ponderous I did enjoy learning about a composer whose life I really knew nothing about. I received this book as a part of the Good Reads give away program This book is about a dysfunctional family centered around the arts and musical life in Paris The book seemed very disjointed and did not connect real well between chapters.
- 464 pages
- The Vexations
- Caitlin Horrocks
- 11 March 2017 Caitlin Horrocks