August 12, 2011
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Sheila Kohler's Love Child is an engrossing novel about the life and loves of a South African woman. Compellingly told in alternating chapters that effortlessly jump from the 1920s and 1930s to the mid-1950s, this is yet another impressive book from Kohler.
Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:
"Kohler's tale is full of tension, haunting images, and admirable restraint."
I did use music all through my book, Love Child for several purposes. The most important one was probably to delineate and try to capture the flavor of a particular period. The book, which is largely based on my mother's life, takes place in three different time periods. In 1956, at forty eight years old, my protagonist called "Bill," who has been left a large fortune by her husband, is asked to make her will by her accountant. This is in Johannesburg, South Africa. Trying to determine who should inherit, she is obliged her to look back on her life. In the twenties she has eloped with a Jewish man, running away at seventeen to Kimberley (the town in South Africa where they have found diamonds). In order to capture this time and place I thought of the songs that I remembered my mother and her sisters singing, songs from their youth. As the young couple drive through the dry area around Kimberley they sing to the blanched sky above. Later Bill remembers the songs that her lover knew so well, though he couldn't even sing in tune: "Tea for Two." and "I Want to Be Happy," and "If You Knew Susie Like I Knew Susie," songs that reflect both the time and what the young lovers felt, a moment of shared emotion.
Later, in the thirties, after the annulment of the marriage, when Bill is obliged to find a job, she works for a wealthy family as a nurse companion. In an effort to cheer up the woman she works for she plays music, putting a record on the gramophone, and playing Ethel Merman singing "I've Got Rhythm." Bill opens up the curtains and dances with Helen, who seems so dejected. Again music was used here to conjure up the era and also to convey what was going on between these two women: a stolen moment of freedom and joy.
The song from the fifties is actually a hymn. Bill goes to chapel to visit her two boys, thinking she ought to leave her money to them. She walks into the chapel to the sound of "Now the day is over, Night is drawing nigh, shadows of the evening steal across the sky." Here the music though it does not tell us much about the time period is used to reflect her somber mood and to echo her feelings at this particular moment.
Sheila Kohler and Love Child links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists