Book Review: The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris
Title: The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton
Author:  Anstey Harris
Publication Date: 10 January 2019


For fans of The Keeper of Lost Things, The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton is the story of a woman who has her heart broken, but then puts it back together again in the most uplifting and exquisite way.
Between the simple melody of running her violin shop and the full-blown orchestra of her romantic interludes in Paris with David, her devoted partner of eight years, Grace Atherton has always set her life to music.
Her world revolves entirely around David, for Grace’s own secrets have kept everyone else at bay. Until, suddenly and shockingly, one act tips Grace’s life upside down, and the music seems to stop.
It takes a vivacious old man and a straight-talking teenager to kickstart a new chapter for Grace. In the process, she learns that she is not as alone in the world as she had once thought, that no mistake is insurmountable, and that the quiet moments in life can be something to shout about …

The cello sound very closely recalls the human voice, so it felt instantly familiar to me
– Sol Gabetta, 2016
The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton is really an ode to the cello. It is beautifully written, with a lyrical and evocative style that immediately transported me into the world of musical instruments and classical scores, despite have little pre-existing knowledge of that world.
Grace Atherton hasn’t played her ‘cello in public for years. Not since an incident at music college stole her confidence. Hers is a life of missed opportunity. Instead, she owns a musical instrument shop in her home town, crafting and repairing violins and cellos. A place where the self-doubt can remain hidden. 
She is head over heels in love with David and has been for years. Maintaining a long-distance relationship, they are unable to live together until his children are older. When they find time together they inhabit their own passionate, all-encompassing bubble that is solely and uniquely theirs. Grace’s world revolves almost entirely around David. When he’s away, she isn’t really living her own life so much as merely existing until their next time together.
When that bubble bursts, Grace finds herself broken and at a loss. It is her friends, Nadia and Mr Williams who give her the strength to move forwards. As the front cover of the book explains, ‘she fell out of love and into life…
The characters are expertly crafted and each quite fascinating in their own right. Grace is sweet, gentle and guarded, whereas Nadia is explosive and emotional – the perfect contrast. Mr Williams is their guiding light – wise and astute, he is loyal, considerate and selfless. They may be a pretty mismatched group, but their unlikely friendship adds a really warm and tender sentiment to the tale. I even found some empathy for David, however flawed he may be. I got the feeling that he was merely a man who loved too much and thought too little about the consequences.
The book commences with Grace working on crafting a special cello for the prestigious Cremona Triennale competition in Cremona, Italy.  I won’t give away the plot as I think the book will lose some of its magic if you know what is to come, however it addresses the themes of love, life, betrayal, infidelity and friendship. The story explores the importance of finding and celebrating your own identity, the long shadow of failure and how we are all shaped by our pasts. It also celebrates the thrill, magic and enchantment that music can elicit.
The settings are equally wonderful, from the Kent countryside, to the magnificent Paris and finally to Cremona, the author captures the essence of those settings to persuasively that the reader will feel that they are there, walking the streets with the characters.
One thing I truly love about this book is how it opened up a whole new world to me. I found myself time and time again setting the book to one side whilst I looked up yet another thing on Google. There is a playlist at the back of the book which I found to be a wonderful extra. I particularly enjoyed listening to Astor Piazzolla’s 1974 jazz/classical fusion Libertango as it features so significantly within the book.

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton is a truly beautiful and uplifting book. Told with an elegant, graceful prose that makes it an utterly convincing and hugely moving tale. A great book from Anstey Harris. Highly recommended!

About the Author

Anstey Harris is based by the seaside in south-east England where she lives with her violinmaker husband and two dogs. She teaches creative writing in the community, local schools, and as an associate lecturer for Christchurch University in Canterbury.
Anstey writes about the things that make people tick, the things that bind us and the things that can rip us apart. In 2015, she won the H G Wells Short Story Prize for her story, Ruby. In novels, Anstey tries to celebrate uplifting ideas and prove that life is good and that happiness is available to everyone once we work out where to look (usually inside ourselves). Her short stories tend not to end quite so well…
Things that interest Anstey include her children and granddaughter, green issues and conservation, adoption and adoption reunion (she is an adopted child, born in an unmarried mothers’ home in Liverpool in 1965), stepfamilies, dogs, and food. Always food. She would love to be on Masterchef but would never recover from the humiliation if she got sent home in the first round.


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