Sex and Stravinsky by Barbara Trapido

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Sex and Stravinsky by Barbara Trapido

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Luci Davin
Reviewed by Luci Davin
Summary: A very far-fetched plot but this story of two families is still highly recommended for the quality of writing and characterisation.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: May 2010
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing plc
ISBN: 978-1408802328

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Josh and Caroline and their daughter Zoe live on an old red bus in Oxford, even though both have quite well paid jobs as an academic and headteacher. Caroline has spent her adult life deferring her plans for the future in order to support her widowed mother who lives in a house nearby. Josh’s job in the drama department of Bristol University does offer him some opportunities to escape abroad though, this time to a conference in his native South Africa.

Hattie Marais once won a scholarship to train as a ballet dancer in London, but her parents refused to let her make her escape – she married Herman and they now live in her old family home with their youngest child, Cat. Hattie teaches ballet and writes stories about Lola, a strong-minded girl who did what Hattie wanted to. One morning, she has a strange dream about her childhood friend, Josh Silver. Later that day, she walks into a cafe and bumps into Josh.

I love Barbara Trapido’s novels, and Sex and Stravinsky was a treat to read for its quality writing, quirky characters, witty observation and tangled family relationships. In some ways though, I found Sex and Stravinsky a bit frustrating. Caroline discovers that her mother has been a manipulative monster who has lied to her in many ways for years. Caroline and Hattie have sacrificed what they wanted to do because of demands from their families, and Caroline’s decisions have also had a detrimental impact on Josh and their daughter Zoe.

The plot becomes increasingly contrived. I was glad that there was a sort of happy ending for most of the characters, but I was unconvinced about how the story had got there, and I was also frustrated that the outcome is very unsatisfactory for one of the characters who I really liked, while a couple of spoilt people who take what they want at others’ expense seem to come off a lot better.

So why with these criticisms have I still rated this book 4½ stars? Well, I can only say that I love Barbara Trapido’s writing, and that to me, a disappointing book by this author is still an excellent read.

Thank you to Bloomsbury for sending a copy of Sex and Stravinsky to The Bookbag.

Other novels about families and communication, or the lack of it, include The Great Perhaps by Joe Meno and Besotted by Joe Treasure.

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Buy Sex and Stravinsky by Barbara Trapido at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Sex and Stravinsky by Barbara Trapido at


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