The Time of Our Singing is an unusual book.
It is also a very unusual review post as some of the same things that I liked about the book were also things I didn’t like about the book.
I know, that’s a very strange thing to say. I can’t recall ever writing such a sentence before.
The writing style intrigued me and drew me in right away, and kept me reading through all 642 pages of it, despite despairing at times this book would ever end. The book progresses in cleverly introduced cycles and flashbacks. This makes the reading more interesting yet at times there is too much repetition. I kept wanting to tell the author – “Yes, yes, I got it already, I knew that already, move on!”
The book introduces us to Delia Daley, her husband David Strom, and their three children. Delia is an African American woman whose musical career as a classical singer was thwarted early on (the late 1930s) despite her extensive talent, due to the color of her skin. David is a Jewish physicist and professor, who left Nazi Germany just in time. His entire origin family remained and perished in the Holocaust. He’s new to the country, his English is poor. David is sure that the fact that he’s a Jew who has dealt with a generous share of discrimination overrides his being white, but American society does not see their mixed marriage that way. Each of their children has a different shade of skin color and the book examines aspects of racism in the United States thoroughly, in great detail.
What binds the family together is music. Or rather MUSIC. That is their life, their day, their conversations, their EVERYTHING. All three children are very talented but the eldest, Noah, has an amazingly pure tenor voice. How this voice affects the course of the family’s life is central to the book along with the examination of the discrimination at every step of the way.
Pages upon pages upon pages are devoted to rich, beautiful, and exhausting details about music. I did not find the details related to music so overwhelming when I read Vikram Seth’s “An Equal Music” as I did in this book. Perhaps another reader with a greater knowledge of classical music will find symbolism and hints that eluded me . It was the same with physics – the physicist father researches the duality of time and the author plays with this theme while cycling the plot between different time periods. Clever but sometimes I simply lost the thread of the point.
However, to return to the point I opened with – at no point did I want to stop reading the book.
I’m glad I read it but was also relieved when I reached the end.
That’s not much of a recommendation either way, so here’ a practical tip – take the book from the library, if possible. Don’t buy it. If you enjoyed it, wonderful! If you don’t like it, simply return it. That’s what I did.