American Music by Jane Mendelsohn – Book Review

American Music by Jane Mendelsohn
Published by Knopf, an imprint of Random House

Milo is a severely wounded war vet. Honor is a physical therapist coming to the rehabilitation hospital working with Milo, massaging his back – and only his back, because he refuses to lay on his back. Except something odd is happening whenever Honor touches Milo. Somehow, memories of the past are welling out of Milo’s body when Honor works on him. Not memories of his past, but of seemingly unconnected people, primarily from the last 100 years.

Mendelsohn’s writing is absolutely gorgeous and completely lyrical. That being said, it took me quite awhile to get into the book. Although beautiful, the way the writing is crafted – particularly the lack of quotation marks and, occasionally, other punctuation – served to separate me from the characters and kept me from getting a good feel for them for a good 100 pages. Flashing back to the past didn’t help that, although it did provide the interest in the novel.

I loved the way the stories ended up coming together, for awhile there I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. I must say, I am still slightly unsure how the harem of the Ottoman Empire really connected to the other stories. It just didn’t seem to come together in quite the same way, although I have my suspicions of what we are meant to take from it, but all of the other stories connected to one another in just one way, and this didn’t quite fit the mold.

If you’re a fan of gorgeous writing, don’t hesitate to pick up “American Music.” If you tend to need a good measure of plot and character, stick with “American Music.” You may not be sure about it at the beginning, but the story will grow on you, and it is worth it by the end. Recommended.

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This review was done with a book borrowed from the library
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9 comments to American Music by Jane Mendelsohn – Book Review

  • I’m a fan of gorgeous writing but not a fan of missing punctuation. I think that would be a huge, annoying distraction. I’ll take a look at the book next time I’m at the book store. I appreciate your review.

    • You know, sometimes that drives me absolutely insane (like in “The Particular Sadness of Lemoncake,” which I had to abandon), but it worked okay in “American Music.”

  • Perhaps an audio of this would work, but it really doesn’t sound like my kind of book despite the beautiful writing.

  • Sometimes writing like that keeps me from really getting into a story. What’s with the lack of punctuation in books lately? I hope it’s not a new trend, because I’m not a fan.

    • I know, I’m not really a fan either. It almost always takes me out of the book. It didn’t take me out of “American Music” exactly, but I do think it contributed to me feeling that the characters were at arm’s length.

  • Definitely a fan of beautiful writing–it has saved many a quick story for me. Definitely adding this to the wish list.

  • I felt about the same about this one! It took a bit for me to get into it, but it’s such a quick read that 100 pages is more like 50 or so, so I trudged on.

    I loved the writing in many places, and I forgave pretty much all of what I didn’t like because of it. The Ottoman Empire section seemed to relate in a distant kind of way, but regardless it didn’t really seem to fit. I am glad I read it, though. Unique, gorgeous, if a little odd/slow in parts.

  • Mark

    I loved your review of “American Music”. I’ve heard such good things about this book! It’s high on my list!