I started to learn the violin in my thirties and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Whilst I am still quite inept, I love it. Naturally this interest has spilt into my reading life which has, in turn, helped my playing. Turns out it’s pretty satisfying to read about something that you like. Who’d have thought it? So, to celebrate that fact, here are some books about violins and violinists, across a variety of genres.
THE AUSCHWITZ VIOLIN BY MARIA ÀNGELS ANGLADA
Based on a true episode, this beautifully written and painful novella tells the story of a Polish violin maker who is forced to make a violin for his Nazi captors. I’ve recommended the English translation here by Martha Tennant.
Where to begin with this lovely collection? Perhaps with the fact that learning to play Part Of Your World from The Little Mermaid has honestly been one of those life goals I never realized I had. Also, if you’re new to reading music then it helps a lot to play something you know by ear…
The Ensemble by Aja Gabel
Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of a String Quartet? This story goes behind the scenes of the Van Ness String Quartet and follows them from music school through to middle age. It’s a saga of relationships, intensity and drive.
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
A rich, story of family, home and identity, this children’s book is set in a brownstone in New York, and violins play a key part in the plot. It’s Christmas, and the Vanderbeekers have been given eleven days notice on their apartment…
Hanna Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaki & Qin Leng
It’s the school talent show, and Hana Hashimoto has signed up to play her violin. The only problem is that she’s a beginner and has only had three lessons. Despite everybody telling her that she isn’t good enough, she practices everyday, and ultimately ends up surprising even herself.
Magic Flutes by Eva Ibbotson
No reading list is really complete without an Eva Ibbotson and so forgive me for sneaking this one on. It involves a princess, the theatre, a castle and a production of The Magic Flute. It is the richly told romance of your dreams and I adore it.
In 2010, Kym’s Stradivarius was stolen. In 2013, they found it. This remarkable memoir is the story of that theft but also of Kym’s relationship with that violin and music itself. It’s a powerful, potent and occasionally deeply painful read.
THE MOZART QUESTION BY MICHAEL MORPURGO
Micheal Morpurgo is one of the greats of British children’s literature and this children’s story, framed around a young reporter interviewing a world-renowned violinist, is a thing of painful beauty. I have been lucky enough to hear a performance of this book and it blew my mind. If you’re in the UK in June, you could hear it too…
The Violinist Of Venice by Alyssa Palombo
Set in the eighteenth century and sweeping through thirty years, this historical romance sees Adriana D’Amato goes to learn violin from the master—Antonio Vivaldi. Admittedly, there re a lot of books about violins that feature Venice in some way, but this is, I think, the only one that has a romance plot with Vivaldi himself.
VIOLIN FOR DUMMIES BY KATHERINE RAPOPORT
One of the familiar yellow and black “for dummies” guides, this gives a lot of sound grounding if you’re planning to learn by yourself for a while and, perhaps, aren’t sure where to begin. Rapoport covers everything you might need to know, and does so in a great and accessible style.
An Equal Music by Vikram Seth
Set against the backdrop of the international music scene, this novel details the saga of a rekindled relationship between two musicians: a pianist and a violinist. It sings with real world and lived detail.
Ayumi’s Violin by Mariko Tatsumoto
Following the death of her mother, twelve-year-old Ayumi must leave her home in Japan and go to America to find the father she’s never met. Set in 1959, and suffused with the racial politics of the time, this is a story of identity, hope and resilience even when the world seems set against you.