My Music, My Drinking & Me
A novel by Caroline J Sinclair
This is a delightful attempt to create the memoirs of Jean Sibelius. The author says she has lived in Finland and researched the letters and diaries of Sibelius as well as work by others on Sibelius in order to create something that Sibelius might have written himself had he the inclination to do so (in a way he did in his diaries). The facts are there, as well as an appendix that gives micro-biographies of the children of Sibelius and his wife Aino. In 240 pages one gets a good overview of the life and its struggles. The facts are a framework on which to weave the emotional state of Sibelius at various times of his life, and of course this is invention that goes beyond what a standard biography would do. I had not realised that Sibelius was so feckless with drink and debt problems that he left others to deal with; he seems very selfish in places as when he leaves his wife to deal with a child who it seems will die, though in the end recovers. My image of him was formed from the music and the photos of him in later life looking ferocious and stolid; I always imagined a rock of a man. I am curious about the suggestion that he did not want his Finnish music to become Finnish-Nationalism music. One difficulty in reading is that the memoir switches from what Sibelius was thinking to conversations in which Sibelius stammers and pauses, so not really a memoir. Yet, it is a gripping read that makes one want to know more about the life.