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The Music Lesson

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Patricia Dolan is alone with a stolen Vermeer painting in an Irish cottage by the sea. How she got here is part of the story she tells us: about her father, a Boston cop; the numbing loss of her daughter; and her charming Irish cousin, who has led her to this high-stakes crime. Her vigil becomes a tale of love, regret, and transformation. As Patricia immerses herself in the Patricia Dolan is alone with a stolen Vermeer painting in an Irish cottage by the sea. How she got here is part of the story she tells us: about her father, a Boston cop; the numbing loss of her daughter; and her charming Irish cousin, who has led her to this high-stakes crime. Her vigil becomes a tale of love, regret, and transformation. As Patricia immerses herself in the passions of her Irish heritage, she discovers what has been hidden beneath the surface of her own life--and what she must do to preserve the things she values most.


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Patricia Dolan is alone with a stolen Vermeer painting in an Irish cottage by the sea. How she got here is part of the story she tells us: about her father, a Boston cop; the numbing loss of her daughter; and her charming Irish cousin, who has led her to this high-stakes crime. Her vigil becomes a tale of love, regret, and transformation. As Patricia immerses herself in the Patricia Dolan is alone with a stolen Vermeer painting in an Irish cottage by the sea. How she got here is part of the story she tells us: about her father, a Boston cop; the numbing loss of her daughter; and her charming Irish cousin, who has led her to this high-stakes crime. Her vigil becomes a tale of love, regret, and transformation. As Patricia immerses herself in the passions of her Irish heritage, she discovers what has been hidden beneath the surface of her own life--and what she must do to preserve the things she values most.

30 review for The Music Lesson

  1. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    The Music Lesson” is a (fictionalized for this story) Vermeer work of art, painted on a small wooden block and resides in The British Royal Collection. This particular piece of art is loaned out rarely by the National Gallery of London for special showings. It is Patricia’s favorite Vermeer, for reasons described in the book. This story is written from Patricia’s POV and as a secret journal. Patricia Dolan is an art historian at the well known Frick Art Reference Library in New York. She has lit The Music Lesson” is a (fictionalized for this story) Vermeer work of art, painted on a small wooden block and resides in The British Royal Collection. This particular piece of art is loaned out rarely by the National Gallery of London for special showings. It is Patricia’s favorite Vermeer, for reasons described in the book. This story is written from Patricia’s POV and as a secret journal. Patricia Dolan is an art historian at the well known Frick Art Reference Library in New York. She has little love and life now left in her soul after a horrible family accident tore her apart. Her love is her Irish ethnicity, her childhood past and her memories of her dearly departed Irish cop father, her job and deep love of paintings. It is what keeps her going, with occasional flashbacks from the past that she tries to keep subdued as they cause her great pain. Mickey, who turns up out of the blue, is a handsome,long lost Irish cousin of sorts and he and Patricia quickly become intimate and close even though there is a disparity of age. He’s a chatterbox of information, he with his Irish looks and accent, rolling off names of kinfolk and counties and history, which draws lonely Patricia in further. Mickey has ties to the IRA, but later we discover it’s a splinter group of the IRA called the IRL0 - Irish Republican Liberation Organization. And with that highly charged political revelation, I did not know what to expect further. I was hoping that this reveal was not going to become explosively violent, overpower the story and become THE story, and it did not, although it did play a role as to WHY the heist was planned and why Patricia was chosen to be a part of it. Mickey coaxes Patricia into doing an art heist for ransom of “The Music Lesson” using her knowledge and connections in the art world and galleries. The ransom money would be used to fund IRLO operations from what better place than the British government. Mickey is an activist, a criminal, a very good actor, Patricia’s lover and a murderer! Patricia journals as she’s traveling to southwest Ireland and is disguised as a tourist, arriving in a small, isolated county while waiting for the Vermeer to come into her possession, as they planned. She is temporarily housed in Mickey’s deceased uncles’ simplistic cottage and waits for further instructions from Mickey. She continues to write in her journal of going to the market or describes walking by green pastures full of cows; she writes of the harsh winds blowing through the little cabin, the sights and sounds of the neighbors down the road; this place that has no street signs. The eccentric neighbor with all the cats or the nosy woman at the other market down the road whom she dislikes by sight and tries to avoid but loves her scones and honey. This can seem doddering and mundane to the reader, “filler” as we might call it, but no, it is not - it’s all a part of the set up. The calm before the storm. And this is when the story starts spinning off, very quickly and with a chilling twist. For a little book (178 pages), it packed alot in with a surprising good punch; had a solid ending with more reveals and secrets that I really did not see coming. I just happened to pluck this book off the library shelf while looking for something else and am glad I did. The first check out date on the inside library jacket of this book was dated March 1, 1999.

  2. 5 out of 5

    David

    The book begins with a woman babysitting a stolen Vermeer in a cottage in a remote village in the west of Ireland. The first half of the book is a series of flashbacks explaining how she got there; the rest of the book tells us how it all turns out. A good story, expertly told. I considered a fourth star, but have an aversion to the stereotype of roguishly charming IRA operatives, able to bend schoolmarmish undersexed protagonists to their will merely by turning up the blarney quotient and expos The book begins with a woman babysitting a stolen Vermeer in a cottage in a remote village in the west of Ireland. The first half of the book is a series of flashbacks explaining how she got there; the rest of the book tells us how it all turns out. A good story, expertly told. I considered a fourth star, but have an aversion to the stereotype of roguishly charming IRA operatives, able to bend schoolmarmish undersexed protagonists to their will merely by turning up the blarney quotient and exposing the right amount of freckled clavicle.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    If you don’t ask it too many questions, ignore a few dated/cringey moments and until you get to the end, this book can induce a lovely contemplative mood. Which I almost think everything else here was an excuse for anyway. The tinge of suspense helped at points, but I was fine just sitting in the room with her and floating along in half-consciousness. I didn’t need reasons for it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tracey

    A nice holiday read. I thought the atmosphere of the village and cottage were really well portrayed. I love Vermeer paintings and after reading this book am keen to visit the art section of our local library again. I liked the ending and have to admit chuckling to myself as I closed the book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    The narrator's voice is wonderful. I loved the spare, economical way the narrator spun her story. She used just the essential details to explain how she came to be keeping her favorite Vermeer painting in a Samsonite suitcase in the damp attic of a cottage in southwest Ireland.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Read It Forward

    Hooray! Katharine Weber's sublime novel THE MUSIC LESSON has been re-issued in paperback. I could go on and on about this lyrical tale of family and heartache and art, but I will simply say this: you MUST read this book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sterlingcindysu

    (pasted) New York art historian Patricia Dolan is so swept away by the distant Irish cousin, Michael O'Driscoll, who seeks her out for her expertise but quickly becomes her lover, that in no time she is living in a remote cottage on the west coast of Ireland and is part of an IRA-inspired plot to kidnap a Vermeer painting (titled The Music Lesson) from the British royal collection and hold it for ransom. Patricia, alone in a wet winter with no company but the cherished Vermeer, keeps a journal t (pasted) New York art historian Patricia Dolan is so swept away by the distant Irish cousin, Michael O'Driscoll, who seeks her out for her expertise but quickly becomes her lover, that in no time she is living in a remote cottage on the west coast of Ireland and is part of an IRA-inspired plot to kidnap a Vermeer painting (titled The Music Lesson) from the British royal collection and hold it for ransom. Patricia, alone in a wet winter with no company but the cherished Vermeer, keeps a journal that is the basis of the novel. The situation is eventually resolved with brutal suddenness. Weber remains a writer to be cherished, with the added, and quite rare, virtue of never writing a word too much. Great book, right to the point but not dry and a twisted ending. Looking forward to reading her other 5 books. She packs alot in 178 pages.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Marguerite

    A nicely written cautionary tale about loneliness and infatuation that mixes in heaps of Irish and art history. It's well-paced and thought-provoking. I didn't know that deforestation was an English strategy to subdue/defeat the Irish. "Life seems sometimes like nothing more than a series of losses, from beginning to end. That's the given. How you respond to those losses, what you make of what's left, that's the part you have to make up as you go."

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jean Pilutti

    A very interesting novel set predominantly in Ireland. The art historian's life takes a very different twist when she becomes involved with a much younger man who she has met in USA. The main character goes to Ireland partly to discover her roots and partly because of a painting, namely, The Music Lesson. It is definitely one that will capture your imagination and specifically if you are interested in art history. A very fast read but worth it for some insightful, thought-provoking comments.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Noel

    Beautifully and sparely written, and evocative of rural Ireland. Also, an Intriguing take on what happened to the Vermeer stolen in Boston. However, I found the ending improbable for a lover of Vermeer.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kim Moritsugu

    A lovely little gem of a literary mystery, about an American art restorer who ends up in a difficult situation in a small Irish village. This book (and others) inspired me to write my first literary mystery, The Glenwood Treasure.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    A short, easy read (I was able to read it in one sitting) but quite enjoyable read. There were a few things that I thought were a little implausible but overall a great plot that kept me guessing and enjoyable writing. I especially loved the ending!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Vlorini

    A delightful, very short novel about the theft and destruction of a Vermeer painting. Well done! A great book to read alongside The Art Forger and Girl with the Pearl Earring or The Goldfinch.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Barb Bailey

    This book combines an art heist, the IRA, and some Irish histoy all in one. I fell it could be classified as a mystery as well. Well written with a good twist for the ending.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Very interesting fast read for lovers of art, travel and mystery.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Shannon Kirk

    In order to explain why I love the beauty of this book so much, I have to explain the feeling it gives. There is a feeling during a good vacation when the regular rules and routines and time requirements don’t apply. You drift in and out of moments, not days, sleep late, read a book here and there. Have meals. Snacks. Drinks. When it’s over, you can’t recall the day over the last seven that you went fishing vs the day at the lighthouse. These, to me, are healing times for your mind. The executiv In order to explain why I love the beauty of this book so much, I have to explain the feeling it gives. There is a feeling during a good vacation when the regular rules and routines and time requirements don’t apply. You drift in and out of moments, not days, sleep late, read a book here and there. Have meals. Snacks. Drinks. When it’s over, you can’t recall the day over the last seven that you went fishing vs the day at the lighthouse. These, to me, are healing times for your mind. The executive function of the brain slows its regular grind and allows for a more amorphous drift through life, which in effect, is really living. This aimless living in real life is splendid, and it happens when one is in-love as well. Memories blend, time expands and then snaps, expands and snaps. I think the natural corollary to this positive feeling during vacation or love is when you return to it in grief after loss. Again the regular rules don’t apply, time feels elusive, your thoughts stray, your intents and regular rules seem pedestrian and unnecessary. This is the time to heal. Reading The Music Lesson gave me this feeling because indeed, it is about a woman alone in Ireland, someone in grief, who has placed herself in a different reality. One that is wholly different from her regular rules and routine. One where she wanders through memories and days. She quite literally puts herself in a situation that cuts her old life in half. In some ways, it’s a meditation on healing in a purgatory on Earth. This book is sneakily gripping. Not just given the thriller aspect concerning a stolen Vermeer. But given the atmosphere and language and sheer poetry of Weber’s writing. It’s interesting that Weber would mention Banville’s The Book Of Evidence in The Music Lesson, as I was struck by how much The Music Lesson’s feel was like the feel of Banville’s Booker-winning The Sea (which was published after The Music Lesson). Both take you on a ride that feels like floating in the ocean, you get carried away, lost in it, and you’re not sure how long you’ve been adrift. But you don’t care either. The Music Lesson is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. Highly recommend for people who like literary thrillers. And if you liked The Sea, you’ll love The Music Lesson.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Patricial Dolan is a woman in living in pain - her marriage is over after her daughter is killed in a car accident and she no longer knows how to connect with people to move on in the aftermath. Until a hot young Irish rebel comes into her life bringing love, sex and a scheme to steel a priceless Vermeer. Sounds like a book I wouldn't want to read. And yet - this book is so much more than its trite movie of the week plot. In fact, I found the plot secondary to the inner thoughts of Patricia, the Patricial Dolan is a woman in living in pain - her marriage is over after her daughter is killed in a car accident and she no longer knows how to connect with people to move on in the aftermath. Until a hot young Irish rebel comes into her life bringing love, sex and a scheme to steel a priceless Vermeer. Sounds like a book I wouldn't want to read. And yet - this book is so much more than its trite movie of the week plot. In fact, I found the plot secondary to the inner thoughts of Patricia, the descriptions of the Vermeer, and life in the beautifully desolate Irish village created by Weber. The IRA storyline is almost a distraction although it is certainly a vehicle to bring Patricia to fictional Ballyroe. She should have known the sex was too good to be true. Fortunately for us, she spends most of the book alone in a cabin in Ireland in January with just her thoughts and a notebook. 3.5 stars for prompting me to google paintings by Vermeer, the potato famine, and the rule of William of Orange.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sun

    Terrible. An art historian is moping about the Irish countryside full of grief and secrets. She starts keeping a journal in which she writes down why she's aided and abetted an Irish terrorist group in stealing a valuable Vermeer from Buckingham Palace. Keeping a record of a crime is stupid enough, but when you read her motives - the love of Irish roots, the death of a child, somehow culminating in her relationship with an IRL (think IRA) member - it only makes you think what a pathetic and piti Terrible. An art historian is moping about the Irish countryside full of grief and secrets. She starts keeping a journal in which she writes down why she's aided and abetted an Irish terrorist group in stealing a valuable Vermeer from Buckingham Palace. Keeping a record of a crime is stupid enough, but when you read her motives - the love of Irish roots, the death of a child, somehow culminating in her relationship with an IRL (think IRA) member - it only makes you think what a pathetic and pitiful and unsympathetic character she is. Weber's writing is unconvincing, as are her attempts to capture the Irish ways of speech. (The voice is also irritating, if you find the present tense as irksome as I do). The reviewers as quoted on the cover are wrong. There is no intricacy, artfulness or tension in this book. I won't be reading another Katharine Weber book in a hurry.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    This book is short at only 178 pages but it is packed, just filled with intrigue. Weber does a fantastic job with the subtleties and the twisting the drama. A museum librarian is seduced (willingly) to steal a famous painting from the Queen as a statement and ransom from the IRA. She hides out in a remote village in Ireland with the painting during the fallout. Really enjoyed this. Especially the little tidbit about Ireland and England relationship with the Dutch (since the painting was a Vermee This book is short at only 178 pages but it is packed, just filled with intrigue. Weber does a fantastic job with the subtleties and the twisting the drama. A museum librarian is seduced (willingly) to steal a famous painting from the Queen as a statement and ransom from the IRA. She hides out in a remote village in Ireland with the painting during the fallout. Really enjoyed this. Especially the little tidbit about Ireland and England relationship with the Dutch (since the painting was a Vermeer).

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lilian

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I've read this several times already and it has become one of my favorite books. Only with this last re-read I realized I didn't understand how she was able to write the final entries. How was she able to do that, she claims she's writing it in a cafe, but then wouldn't she have hidden the journal already before leaving the cottage? Just something I'm confused about. But even with this "minor" flaw, I still like the story.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    I've studied Art History and I've lived in Ireland. Thankfully, I was never involved in a paramilitary plot to steal and ransom a work of art from the Queen of England, though. I thought the story was well done -- although I'm not sure I buy the main character keeping a journal about the whole thing. I enjoyed the references to Irish writers like Iris Murdoch and James Joyce as well. Very nicely done, overall.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    This novel (which combines three sub-genres...the art heist, the self-discovery of one's Irish ancestry and heritage, and the IRA thriller) has real moments of beauty and insight. Weber has a nice way with words and images. I am not sure yet if the novel actually works or has too contrived an ending.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Twodogs333

    I kept waiting for something to HAPPEN in this book. There was a ton of interesting descriptions and the narrator kept trying to intrigue the reader, but I have to say, up until the last 20 pages of the book, I was bored. (Sorry Linds! But to each their own opinion, right?). It's the equivalent of saying "It's a renter" if it was a movie. But alas...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary

    I finished this book with a huge smile on my face! I loved the style and descriptions of living in Ireland in the cottage by the sea. It's a short little gem; story unfolds slowly narrated by Patricia-some art history, Irish history and even some love.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Norah

    Well written, but I felt, coming from northern Ireland, a little disturbed by light attitude taken at the start towards the IRA. However, it redeemed itself towards the end, though that itself I found unrealistic. A quick and interesting read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Janie

    Intricately written with a puzzle that gets more involved with each page. Had my interest from the start and with this book only being 178 pages, Katharine Weber never wasted a word. Mysterious characters, Ireland, Vermeer’s wondrous paintings, and a plot that is unforgettable .

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tami

    the premise of the book was interesting to me. a famous vermeer painting is stolen. that sounded cool. as well as some of the details around the heist. but it was sloppy in writing, with romance inserted too early and often.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    A stolen Vermeer and Irish history are intermingled in this short novel. I liked the textures and feel of the novel and the sense of being a part of a great work of art.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Duncan

    Well written story about art, passion, and the Troubles; the protagonist is somewhat irritatingly naive, and the other characters don't really come alive, but the writing is strong.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Slmcmahon

    I found this book delightful. The story of a woman broken by tragedy, revived and redeemed by her love of art. I will re-read this book.

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