Gone by Min Kym

Gone

Min Kym

Gone is a window on the world of musical genius who discovers the music of her own voice. 

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The spellbinding memoir of a violin virtuoso who loses the instrument that had defined her both on stage and off -- and who discovers, beyond the violin, the music of her own voice
 
Her first violin was tiny, harsh, factory-made; her first piece was “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star.” But from the very beginning, Min Kym knew that music was the element in which she could swim and dive and soar. At seven years old, she was a prodigy, the youngest ever student at the famed Purcell School. At eleven, she won her first international prize; at eighteen, violinist great Ruggiero Ricci called her “the most talented violinist I’ve ever taught.” And at twenty-one, she found “the one,” the violin she would play as a soloist: a rare 1696 Stradivarius. Her career took off. She recorded the Brahms concerto and a world tour was planned.

Then, in a London café, her violin was stolen. She felt as though she had lost her soulmate, and with it her sense of who she was. Overnight she became unable to play or function, stunned into silence.

In this lucid and transfixing memoir, Kym reckons with the space left by her violin’s absence. She sees with new eyes her past as a child prodigy, with its isolation and crushing expectations; her combustible relationships with teachers and with a domineering boyfriend; and her navigation of two very different worlds, her traditional Korean family and her music. And in the stark yet clarifying light of her loss, she rediscovers her voice and herself.


Advance Galley Reviews

Gone is a memoir about a violinist and her journey. The memoir is interesting and descriptive, I enjoyed reading it. There were a few typos, but reads easily. A great book if you are a fan, like memoirs or anything with music and family.

Over the years, I’ve read my fair share of memoirs written by people ranging from celebrities to business people to complete strangers whom I had never heard of until the moment I read their memoir. A lot of people I know don’t like to read memoirs because there are too many out there that are written in an overly-pretentious manner or, worse yet, may come across as genuine when in reality they are not. Even though I share these same concerns when it comes to memoirs, I still read them because occasionally, there may be a gem in there that I would have regretted passing up on reading. Min Kym’s Gone: A Girl, A Violin, A Life Unstrung – a heartfelt memoir about a violin prodigy who loses the precious instrument that defined her entire life – is definitely one of those gems. Before I go into my thoughts on the book, let me just say that from a writing perspective, there were definitely issues – lots of them. In addition to the many grammatical and sentence structure errors, the writing was a bit all over the place at times, which was distracting and broke the flow of the story at certain points. Normally, I would give a book with such flaws a low rating, but I didn’t this time because of several reasons, the main one being that the version I read was an “uncorrected proof” copy so I already expected that there would be errors. For me, I’m generally okay with overlooking these types of errors as long as everything is fixed before the final published version goes into print. The other reason of course is the fact that this book is a memoir, a personal story written by someone who does not write for a living, so I tend to be a bit more lenient with what I am willing to tolerate where the writing is concerned. For those who may have lower tolerance in this area, I would suggest reading the final published version (and hope that the editors caught the errors and fixed them). The third -- and most important – reason is explained in detail below…. Surprisingly, this memoir affected me on a personal level like no other memoir that I’ve read up to this point has done. Perhaps it is because I share some cultural similarities with the author Min Kym (more on that in a minute), plus a few aspects of her personality as well as some of the experiences she went through parallel my own in certain areas. [For the record – no, I am not a child prodigy and I do not play any instruments, nor am I musically inclined (I love listening to music but can’t sing to save my life, lol). To be honest, many of the music-related references in the book were completely lost on me and I didn’t try for even a minute to keep any of it straight because I knew I couldn’t.] Kym is a Korean woman who grew up in England while I am a Chinese woman who grew up in the U.S. – we may be from different countries, but there is the shared cultural identity of being raised by “traditional” Asian families in the Western world and the struggles this brings about. I was absolutely able to relate to many of the “issues” she brought up about culture and family and how different – ridiculous even -- the way of thinking may seem to those who may not have been brought up with those influences in their lives. Many of the struggles Kym talked about are things I’ve experienced as well – for example: the sense of being bound by cultural obligations to do/not do or say/not say certain things, putting your best face forward and not letting the “weakness” of your true feelings show, constantly saying yes and letting others manipulate and take advantage against your better judgment, living the life others want you to live rather than the life you want to live, going along and putting everyone else’s needs before your own because it is instilled in you to obey and not to question...etc. A lot of this really hit home for me and in a way, it was reassuring to hear someone going through similar struggles not being afraid to articulate exactly how she felt. One of the things I appreciated most about Kym’s story was the honest and genuine way in which she laid everything out in the open – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Never once did she deliberately try to paint herself in a good light – instead, she showed us her true human self, showed us her flaws, her stubborn personality, her raw emotions. It was almost as though she did not care whether people would judge her for being foolish, irrational, naïve, etc. – she just needed to tell her story, to pour her heart out, get what had been suppressed for so long out of her system….and let the chips fall where they may. This was a unique aspect of Kym’s memoir that we don’t often see in other memoirs, which I found refreshing and for this reason alone is already worth reading. I would absolutely recommend this book, though as I said earlier, read the final published version rather than any uncorrected proof or advance galley versions. I don’t say this often but this was one book where I regret reading an ARC over an actual published copy because I feel like I could have done more justice to the book in my review if I had done so. Received advance reader’s copy from Crown Publishing via Penguin First-to-Read program and NetGalley.

Min Kym tackled a difficult task here: to describe a loss that few people truly understand. She spends a lot of time trying to convey her relationship to music and to her Strad, they way it became a piece of her, an extension of her most intimate and also public identity. I loved the easy way in which she discussed her relationship with specific pieces. The complicated relationships with teachers. There was a delay between when I downloaded this book and when I read it, and that delay was long enough that I mis-remembered the genre, thinking it was a novel and not a memoir. About fifty pages in, I looked it up again because it really didn't feel right. Most novels about music and musicians are rather flowery, trying to establish in language the magic of an aural art form. She just doesn't do that. She lives music and only feels human when she is playing, but her narration voice is rather grounded, almost matter-of-fact. This is refreshing -- it's how musicians actually talk about music. Music is powerful, suited to a certain mood, tricky, but a solid thing that she lives with. I really enjoyed her description of her childhood and her relationship with the violin and then the shock when it was taken. What followed was bereft of music, however, and it lacked in language. There's a lot of telling rather than showing, a lot reflection, looking for reasons and excuses, but it feels unresolved, unfinished. Like she's not sure what she can admit quite yet, what was important and what wasn't. The ending feels raw, which isn't a terrible thing, but it's very much in contrast to the certainty of the first half of the book. The writing is effective but not exactly whole. I got a free copy to review from First to Read.

I received an 'uncorrected proof' copy of this book from Penguin First to Read. This book is written by Min Kym who was a child prodigy violinist who has her prized Strad violin stolen. While I understand her initial shock and sorrow over this theft, I could not understand why she gave up her solo violinist career and aspirations. She pretty much had no desire to find a replacement violin. I am not a violinist (I do play the piano) but I find it hard to believe that a particular instrument can make or break a career. What about the talent of the individual? Because this was an uncorrected proof edition, there were typos and some of the writing seemed to have no purpose to the overall theme/plot of the book....or just seemed "out of place". Towards the end, there is a very short chapter, which pretty much came out of nowhere, about the author's battle with anorexia. The author did provide information on the different types of "Strads" which proved to be very interesting. Even though the book was relatively short (225 e-pages), the story could have been told as a long magazine article. I give this book a three-star rating.

GONE: A GIRL, A VIOLIN, A LIFE UNSTRUNG is Min Kym's memoir about being a musical child prodigy (violin) and her life as an adult. While the novel offers insight into such a life, I felt the story meandered at times. It was an interesting read but could have been better. My thanks to Penguin First to Read for the Advance Reader copy...

A while ago, I mentioned that I was going on a bit of a hiatus from reading nonfiction. Well, that’s obviously over. It’s cancelled. I’m going to leave it at that, because when I saw Gone by Min Kym up for review, I was more than interested. Gone sounded like the kind of book I would love to read, and my initial assessment was right. Gone was truly a fantastic memoir that was worth the time I spent reading it. I’ve read a couple of memoirs here and there, but Gone was something else. The subject dealt with music, which I rarely read about. Still, this seemed like such and authentic book because of the writing—which was engrossing—but also because Kym herself is the violinist. Min Kym wrote about her personal experiences. She talked about the expectations that were placed on her because of her obvious and natural skill with a violin and how her early lessons and learned habits ultimately affected her life. Gone detailed some of the most pivotal times in her life—both emotionally and professionally—and painted an honest picture. It was written from the perspective of a person who was a child prodigy from their perspective, not told by someone else. Gone was as much about the violin that was unjustly taken as it was the violinist behind the bow. And let me tell you, the result was powerful. I could write more about Gone, but I’m not trying to summarize the whole memoir. There wouldn’t be a point to it. You’d have to read it to truly understand. That’s all I can say. Now, I have looked up more about Min Kym and discovered that there is an album that was released as a companion to this book. I have listened to it. And it has reminded me of why I still, to this day, enjoy listening to classical music. So, if you read the memoir also listen to the companion album too. That’s my recommendation. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have music to listen to. This copy of the book was provided by First to Read (Publisher) for this review, thank you!

I was really looking forward to reading this book, but I found the writing disappointing. I almost want to stop reading this book altogether, because the first 90 pages of this book did not flow well at all. The writing was very choppy and it was pretty tedious to read. Things got a but better around chapter four, where the book seemed to flow a lot better. I really did feel for this woman. I have never had an instrument stolen from me, but I understand the pain. I also understand what it feels like to have another person trying to control me. Being betrayed and having a part of you stolen is not something that you get over easily. I definitely related with her emotions and grief. I just hope that the final copy of this book flows better than the uncorrected proof that I read.

Music has always been in Min Kym's blood and from the moment she held the violin for the first time she knew this instrument would make her happy. As a child prodigy her career as a musician was settled. She played with the most inspiring teachers, who were impressed by her talent and she won many prestigious prizes. When, at the age of twenty-one, Min Kym found the instrument of her dreams, a Stradivarius from 1696, she knew she'd have a brilliant future together with her beloved instrument. Unfortunately the good times didn't last, Min Kym lost the instrument that felt like an extra limb, someone stole it from her. Because this violin was her soul mate her life stopped having meaning. When she lost her Stradivarius, she lost a big part of herself. In Gone: A Girl, A Violin, A Life Unstrung Min Kym writes about her life. Music is the most important part of who she is. Her Stradivarius wasn't just an instrument, it was part of her soul. Losing it meant she lost much more than just the instrument itself, she stopped being able to live. A thief took her identity from her and that left a huge hole that isn't easily filled. Min Kym has always worked hard to become a top musician. She has so much talent, she instinctively knows how her favorite instrument works and she can hear things others aren't capable of hearing. She's an admirable person with plenty of determination. Even though she has a sad story to tell, her honest writing and the abundance of interesting information she shares are making her book intriguing and compelling without ever losing the integrity she has in spades. Min Kym openly tells about her life. She writes about her family, her teachers, the instruments she had the chance to play and her victories and failures. She describes the things she's done well in the same amount of detail as the things that have gone wrong. This made me respect her even more than I already did before I started reading her book. Min Kym might have lost her one true love, but she's strong, she shares her story with the world and she tries to find a way out of the black hole the theft made her fall in. She's a fascinating person with a story to tell and she does this with dignity, she writes in an intelligent and insightful way. I read her book in one sitting, it's moving, intense and heartbreaking, but there's also a glimmer of hope for the future. I wish with all my heart that she finds herself again and will be able to go back to the love of her life, making music she enjoys, so she can heal again.

Somehow I have never heard of the violinist Myn Kim nor did I hear about the theft of her violin, but I have always been fascinated by the violin so I was intrigued by this memoir. I very much enjoyed reading this and it was interesting to hear about life as a child prodigy and how she has evolved as a violinist through the years. I appreciate Kim's honesty about her life and the loss of her violin. She is very respectful to the people in her life and is without arrogance and ego. Her passion for the music and her beloved violin are evident. I feel her passion and her loss and finished reading this hoping there was a way for her to retrieve her violin in the future. This is not a perfect book, but it's not meant to be.I feel this book is not for us readers, but an outlet for her to start healing and move forward in her life.

Though not someone who is naturally drawn to non-fiction, this memoir truly spoke to me. As a violinist (though hardly one of Min Kym's caliber!), I appreciate Kym's relationship and dependency on her violin as depicted in Gone. Her pain is striking, even in the words on the page, and the memoir itself is a symphony with many movements, working through Kym's emotions and reflections. However, you do not need to have an appreciation for music to be moved by Kym's story. Although she is known as a talented musician, Kym's memoir shows that her talent for expression extends to the written word.

I very much enjoyed this heartfelt memoir by Min Kym. Ms. Kym gives us an in depth look into the life of a child prodigy. Though she longed to live a “normal” life, hers was taken up with studying and playing the violin. She loved every minute of it but she did miss not having friends or going to other children’s birthday parties. But music was her passion and she definitely kept my interest as she tells of her progress in music. Then she finds what she calls her “soulmate” – a valuable Stradivarius. Though she had played beautifully on all of her previous violins, she knew this one was special. Her musical career started to take off until one tragic day when her violin was stolen. Ms. Kym writes very convincingly on how this theft affected her. I felt I was living the loss with her, though truly how could I have known how she felt when I myself have never been so attached to a musical instrument. Even so, reading her words did give me an understanding of what she went through. After studying so hard and coming so far, this one event truly upended her. There are parts of the book where it might be helpful to have some knowledge about music but mostly I think it would appeal to anyone who has loved and lost. Recommended memoir.

Gone by Min Kym is a heartfelt look into the life of a musician, who grew up as a child prodigy, and found the instrument that completed her. Unfortunately, that violin was ripped from her life and ultimately ripped her heart in two. Kym notes in her memoir that she wrote her story in a way to heal from this personal tragedy. This memoir was interesting and I learned probably more than I ever needed to know about violins and how you play them, which made reading this a little dry and, at times, overwhelming. With a little more fine tuning, this could be a well-written account of the life and loss experienced by Kym. Overall, I enjoyed reading the memoir and will recommend.

Near the end of her book Gone, Min Kym says that she used writing to help her understand and heal from the trauma of losing her Stradivarius violin. Unfortunately, this book hasn’t completely made the transition from journal to memoir. While Kym’s story—not just the one about the lost violin, but also her life story as a child prodigy—is an interesting one, the telling of it is neither “transfixing” nor “spellbinding.” Kym’s writing, especially in the first half of the book, is rushed and choppy. She says at one point, that she likes to play the violin fast; fast is also how she writes. Kym jumps from event to event, not fully developing some of the segments or explicitly tying them together. Even just a few more dates would have helped. Kym talks about her emotional reactions to situations, but the ebb and flow of writing that makes the reader fell the emotion isn’t there. I really wanted to like this book, and I did learn something from Kym’s experiences and her telling of them, but the writing was disappointing.

It took me a long time to want to write this review because I had so many thoughts about the book that I was trying to sort out and put together. But I got this copy to review so I think I should just put down what I have. Min Kym was a child prodigy and though she indicates that there is no way to explain what that is like, she does a fantastic job of differentiating between a prodigy and someone who is really good at something. There is a big difference between someone who works hard at something (probably pushed by their parents) day and night to be good, and someone like Min. The idea of something just coming so naturally and being such a part of her helped me understand why the loss of a violin would be such a devastating event. She also touches on, almost implicitly, the way women can be sort of used and persuaded to do things they don't really want to do. I don't think she ever uses the term "gaslight," but it definitely applies to a lot of the way she was manipulated. She doesn't directly analyze all of the implications of this, more just tells us that it happens and maybe that's because she is still working through things and finding her voice as a person in her own right. She describes a lot of what is definitely emotional abuse, even if she doesn't use those words when talking about it. I always wanted to be a child prodigy; I always wanted to be that amazing at something and this book has done nothing to dispel that. It really doesn't make it sound like a terrible life. Honestly, to be able to pick up an instrument (or whatever) and feel like you know that's what you're supposed to do, to have a job that doesn't feel like work--that's the dream, right? I received this book free from Penguin First to Read

Unlike the description in the blurb about this memoir, I found Min Kym's Gone to be a very far cry from 'spellbinding.' This was the first 'uncorrected proof' that I've received that I felt lived up to its name. The amount of typos and errors throughout the pages was jarring and made the already short, choppy sentences that much more choppy and lacking readability. In addition to that, I was quite bored until the action, so to speak, began, in the fourth chapter, when Min's violin gets stolen. It is here that I finally understood her deep, almost maternal connection with her Stradivarius, and where I started to feel a personal connection to the author. Having played the violin as a young girl, I thought I would understand it instantly, but I was no prodigy. I never felt the love of an instrument as Min has, and it opened my eyes to the intensity of the world of prodigious children who grow up to be musical superstars. I really began to feel the pain at her loss of her most precious possession. I feel my rating would have been lower had there not been some kind of drama, and I wish that it had been introduced sooner, as it felt very slow-burning and dry until chapter 4 came along. Her upbringing, while unusual, was not altogether that interesting to keep hold of my attention. Thank you to Penguin First to Read for the opportunity to read this book in advance.

The memoir of Min Kym tells the story of a child prodigy of the violin. Myn describes her discovery at a very young age of music, and specifically the violin. She recounts her story of special training and missed childhood in a matter of fact manner, stressing the opportunities afforded her because if her talent. Her descriptions of her relationships with some of her mentors made me uncomfortable as they bordered on abusive, insisting on her playing and behaving in accordance with the mentor's directives. Ill equipped for personal relationships Myn finds her soul mate, a Stradivarius, and feels a completeness. The satisfaction is cruelly ripped away when the violin is stolen. Myn wrote the memoir as a means of healing this loss but it may also be a way for her to understand the effects of her early years on her adult life. I think I would have put this book down unfinished if I had not received a proof from First to Read in exchange for an honest review.

A musician's music is their heart soul. What happens when both are ripped out? How does one live, breath and function? "Gone" allows readers into the self evaluation which Min Kym goes through and does so artfully and tenderly. Kym's voice is refreshing, poetic and sincere and when we express the great stories of our lives they should be just this. The insights "Gone" shares with readers are the dangers involved in bleeding prodigies for personal and national gain. Further, she shows how tiger parenting and enforced self rigidity shuts us down and imprisons us within our gifts. Time offers the best perspective on tragedy and "Gone" shows us the unseen proffers time gives. In the recent flood of stories from female Korean authors this one is unique, touching and not lacking face in the slightest.

This is a memoir; the beautiful story of a violin prodigy whose heart was stolen by her violin. She writes of her life as a Korean woman who moved a lot due to her fathers job and had to adjust to life in many ways most of us never experience. The story Captured my interest as a fellow musician and lover of travel. I got some of both in this book. Beautiful descriptions and tons of details. I found myself glossing over at certain points. Maybe it was a little too slow for my tastes. The story however was real and allowed me to see into the life of a successful musician in ways that I didn't expect. A lot of people think the life of a professional musician is glamorous but the behind the scenes turns out to be much different than what we see from the outside. Lovely story of life.

The story of a famous violinist and a stolen Stradivarius seems almost clichéd and has a potential audience that is probably a small, but loyal group of people inclined to read anything that they can on the arts in general and music and musicians in particular. I am a member of that potential target audience. I did not get what I had expected. The presentation of the book is attractive in typeface and formatting, but being attuned to such details also brought on a slight sense of foreboding when I realized that the book may not contain the wealth of detail that I might crave given the large margins. Nonetheless, I plunged into the book with an earnest eagerness. Min Kym’s opus starts off literally at the beginning, with her evolution as a child prodigy. So far this is a somewhat familiar, but not overly trodden subject. Child prodigies have often been the object of much study both in fiction and nonfiction, but Ms Kym writes clearly and with seemingly honesty about this period of her life; if she is concealing details it isn’t readily apparent to me. Still, as I read I sensed something amiss. The problem, I eventually realized, was not in the story of a budding child genius with enough talent to end up with one of the few Stradivari violins in the world; it was that I had never heard of her until reading this book. A quick Internet search confirmed that she has only one album to her credit, a Beethoven outing released in 2008. After that date, nothing was available. So, as the book progressed I became engrossed in another mystery altogether from that of a stolen violin. Who was the woman, artistically, and how did she reach a level of success where she could afford an enormously expensive instrument but still leave such little tangible evidence of her musical presence out in the world? In confession, I must admit that I took alarm that she came from a Korean background. As Ms Kym attests in the early chapters, this background was not the most advantageous one for a young girl pursuing a high level of western artistic prowess. But no, her parents didn’t seem to be the problem that Ms Kym obviously had encountered and had yet to fully overcome. It was only when she reaches the point in her narrative where she reaches adulthood (more or less) that her momentum becomes stunted. Without going into too much detail and risk spoiling the book for any reader, the problem that stilled Min Kym’s artistic voice started well before the theft of a priceless instrument. While she goes to great pain to record the injurious effects of an obviously bad relationship, I remained unconvinced that this was the point of cause and effect. The facts, as recorded in this narrative, are that she allowed this relationship to consume her despite her own sense of ominous threat to her emotional wellbeing. I have no doubt that this man is a jerk; had I known Ms Kym I surely would have counseled her to end this obviously harmful mismatch early on. Yet, she ascribes to him damage that is beyond his ability to cause. My suspicions are that the great rush of her early career became more difficult to control as she matured into an adult artist. If her Strad hadn’t been stolen, I feel certain that something else would have stilled her artistic voice. Ms Kym write well. Her story is worth reading. I am convinced, however, that she couldn’t bring the same objectivity to her adult life as she does to her childhood. Being a child prodigy must be an overwhelming burden, especially when one leaves childhood behind. I wish Min Kym could bring a more objective eye to the source of her demons instead of attributing blame to others which is beyond their power to cause such injury. Either there was more to this relationship than she reveals, or this man is something of a scapegoat; perhaps a deserving scapegoat, but one whose presence obscures a source of deeper harm. My one fervent hope is that this book marks the re-introduction of Min Kym into the musical world. Even with the relative dearth of recorded material available, she is clearly a major talent that deserves to be heard loudly, with clarity, and much more often.

Interesting memoir a great read for anyone interested in music ... loved curling up with s blanket coffee and this ebook.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I found it to be a very interesting glimpse into the life of a child prodigy. I have never given a thought to the importance of the instrument to the talent of the musician, or what music actually means to a musician. It is complete immersion into their element. The instrument is a posession that enables expression and nourishes the soul of the performer and creates the bond that strives for that pinnacle of success that ultimately gives definition to the individual. It is a wonderful rendering of the ups and downs of the life and career of a gifted musician. The only downside is the lamentable loss of childhood that such gifts of talent cause.

I don't usually read biographies and memoirs but when I saw this book and read the book description, I felt compelled to read it. Why? I don't even know who Min Kym is and I haven't heard of her, but I had to read her memoir. I'm not sure exactly what prompted me to request the galley but I did. It could probably have something to do with the fact that I tried and had to give up playing the violin because of the extremely soft, almost missing flexor tendon on my pinky finger, that I can't properly hold down the strings to produce the right sound. So yes, this book intrigued me. The book opens with a scene where Ms. Kym is checking in her bags at the airline ticketing counter and was told she had to check in her violin and something terrible happens then the next chapter opens at the very beginning, the one event that would catapult her into the world of music and competitions and the different teachers and mentors that she's had over the years and what each of her violins meant to her. I play the piano and I did attempt to learn the violin but I am by no means a professional musician but I do understand this phrase when I came across it in the book when Ms. Kym said, “…I knew right away that holding a violin, playing a violin, was not simply for me, but it was me.” There are some instruments that is very easy and comes naturally to a person and in my case, despite the initial resistance, it was the piano. Back when I was first learning the piano, I preferred the voice and romance of the violin but all we had was an ancient, Weinstein & Sons upright piano with a cracked sound board. But I figured, learning how to read music on a piano will translate into all other instruments anyway so I learned and played the piano. Years later, when I was working, I bought myself a beginner violin, a Hoffner, because I still wanted to learn how to play another, more portable instrument. It was either a violin or a flute but the violin won. It was slightly awkward for me to hold, and the sound was just as Ms. Kym described her first violin as "harsh" sounding and the harshness of it was probably largely due to my inexperience as a violinist. I think I tried and practiced on that violin for a year to two and gave up. The instrument was just not for me. Five years later, I sold it to the mother of another beginner violinist. Hopefully, that child will fare better than I. So for everyone who can play a violin, I'm highly in awe of you guys. Moving halfway across the world and having to leave my piano or my Yamaha Electone Organ behind, I started to miss playing the piano at around the 7-year mark so when I finally purchased a Yamaha Portable Grand DGX-660 Digital Piano and played music again for the first time in 7 years, I completely understood how Ms. Kym felt when she said, “…I felt like a creature released, alive in herself for the first time" because that was exactly how I felt when I played the piano on my DGX-660. Sure, there is nothing like the sound of a good acoustic instrument but I was looking for a more portable, and practical instrument since I can't fit a baby grand piano anywhere in my house and I honestly don't want the cost of maintaining one and I want to have the rhythms and different voices that my Yamaha Electone Organ has just in the form of an 88-key piano. Reading this book, I'm not sure if Ms. Kym was romanticizing her "relationship" with each of her violins but her attachment to each of her instruments, especially to the 1696 Stradivarius was really something that made me think, perhaps that feeling of attachment only applies to violinists? Why? Because she described her rare, 1696 Stradivarius violin as "…It felt as if three hundred years ago, Stradivarius had held his hands over a length of wood and fashioned this violin just for me, that all her [the violin's] life, my Strad had been waiting for me as I had been waiting for her… It was love at first sight, love and everything else: honor, obedience, trust, everything… This was marriage till death do us part, made in heaven right here on earth… I'd met my soul mate." See what I mean about romanticizing violins? Ms. Kym did mention that pianists aren't like that at all about their pianos, which I feel to be true because pianos are not as portable (unless you get a digital one that you lug around everywhere) and pianists usually just play on whatever piano is available at the venue unless you're some hotshot piano player who has the means and money to transport their grand pianos everywhere. Although, I have to say that pianist are very loyal to their brands. There's always a debate going on as to which piano brand sounds better: Steinway & Sons, Yamaha, Kawai, or Baldwin to name a few and we pianists, would defend our brands to the death especially when it comes to our personal instruments. I mean, you can't really demand a venue to provide you with the brand and model you prefer to play on unless you ship your own. So yes, I do agree with Ms. Kym that pianists, don't have this level of attachment to their instruments like violinists do. This book climaxes to a point in time where her Strad was stolen and the depression that came after it, which was understandable and very dark. The confusion that surrounded the whole thing and the painful reality of finding and buying another violin. She finally ends up with an Amati violin and the book closes with this heart-wrenching realization, "…My Strad is Gone but I can still hear the call of it. My Strad is Gone but I can play again. I have memories of the Strad and the Strad will have memories of me. When it is played again, out in the open, on stage, in front of an audience, it will remember me. It will open its heart and remember me" to which these words resonated so much with me when I went back home last December 2016 and saw how dirty it's keys were, how neglected and forlorn my Weinstein & Sons upright acoustic Piano was and my Yamaha Electone Organ was. Both are in sad need of repair (all the black keys of the foot pedals of the Yamaha Electone Organ are not producing sound anymore) and both need cleaning and the Weinstein badly needs to be tuned and I was a bit outraged and terribly saddened that no one cared for them both. They're both gone from me but both instruments and I will have memories of each other, of the love and care we shared for 12 good years. In conclusion, this book has changed how I look and feel about the instruments that I have throughout the years (though not as many as Ms. Kym has gone through with her violins) and I learned a lot on how a violin is made and how structured a life of a child prodigy was. I've always thought about what if I started early with the piano and went on to Conservatory music instead of getting a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting and what if I had a job as a musician instead of an accounting job? This book has given me insights to what a musician's life is like so at least the wondering on my part has lessened and to be honest, I wouldn't trade a thing but I would've liked to have at least tried it first (like going to Conservatory Music in College instead of Accounting) to see how far I could go with my music. Gone by Min Kym is a well-written, emotionally charged, thought-provoking and sometimes dark memoir but in the end, you can clearly see the subtle changes and the triumphant come back of a wiser, stronger Min Kym.

Min Kym writes a very open and heartfelt look into her life as a Korean growing up in England, a child prodigy, and what it truly means to connect with music and your instrument, You might not be familiar with her name, but if you were anywhere near a computer or had access to the news, you surely heard about the Stradivarius stolen from a sandwich shop in London back in 2010. It was hers. What I like about the book is that, while it hinges primarily on the loss of the violin, you get a intimate view of what it means to be a musical prodigy and all the hard work and sacrifice that goes into dedicating your life to music. There were moments when I wanted to slap her upside the head for not standing up for herself, and there is now a man that I will probably slap on sight (who takes advantage like that of someone they claim to love?!?!), but you really do get a full picture of the person and her connection to the music and the instrument.

This is a compelling, often sad, but ultimately hopeful memoir. Kym candidly discusses both the triumphs and trials of being a violin prodigy without coming across as conceited or complaining. Her writing style is quite detailed, full of interesting nuggets about various musicians, violin-making, pieces of music, etc. She weaves this through the main narrative, which eventually becomes the story of how her beloved instrument is stolen. I think classical musicians, particularly violinists like myself, will find this book fascinating. Anyone who wants an intimate picture of the interior life of an artist should enjoy it as well. I received advanced access to this book from the First to Read program, in exchange for an honest review.

A lyrical, beautiful telling of a child prodigy's journey through her life and how her instrument was her bond and when stolen, she also loses herself. She swims through despondency and an abusive relationship to find herself and maybe the instrument and life she wants.

 


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