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Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Soloist

The Soloist, by Mark Salzman is a book about a former Child Prodigy named Renne Sundheimer. As a young boy, Renne was a wonderful concert cellist who astounded and entranced his audiences. However, by the age of 18 his gift deserts him, and after suffering through his 20's becomes a teacher at a University in Southern California. The novel, told from Renne's perspective, follows him as he takes a young Korean boy named Kyung-hee, under his wing. The boy reminds Renne of himself, Kyung-hee has extraordinary talent, but is unresponsive and impassive. As Renne trys to make Kyung-hee open up, Renne becomes involved in a court case, the trial of a young man accused for the brutal murder of a Buddhist teacher. Renne now has the added pressure of making the right decisions both in the Jury room, and in his classroom.

As the novel progresses, it becomes not so much a story of a failed musician, but a story of a man looking for himself. The experience that accompanies his time as a Juror helps him to come to terms with his inner demons. Also the help of his young student comes into play as Renne realizes that he does not need to be a concert musician to be happy.

I found the book deeply moving, and thought-provoking. I felt that Mark Salzman, did a wonderful job capturing the thoughts and feelings of Renne. I believe that the story has truths which we can all use and relate to. However, I felt that the way in which the Buddhist religion was portrayed in the novel was fairly degrading. Even though I understand the literary aspect of the portrayal, I felt that it was nonetheless unnecessary. This aspect of the novel did not diminish the skill that Mark Salzman used when bringing Renne's story to life. This masterful telling of a man finding himself is not to be missed by the musical enthusiasts as well as those looking for a good solid novel.

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