Gone by Min Kym

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Gone by Min Kym

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Florence Holmes
Reviewed by Florence Holmes
Summary: A memoir of a child prodigy violinist whose violin is stolen.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 238 Date: April 2017
Publisher: Penguin Viking
ISBN: 978-0241263150

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Gone is a fascinating peephole into the world of solo musicians and their instruments. When Min Kym's 300 year old Stradivarius violin was stolen in 2010, the newspapers were eager to tell the story; this memoir is Kym's side of it, from her early childhood and education at the Purcell School (their youngest ever pupil) to the recovery of the Strad and beyond.

There are two aspects of Gone, aside from the central story, which elevate it. The first is Kym's Korean background. She lives there briefly as a young child before her parents decide to return to England for Kym to realise her potential as a violinist, and Korean attitudes to family hierarchy and obedience resonate throughout the memoir. The reader sees the enormous, wonderful and troubling impact of a child prodigy in a first generation immigrant family. I would have loved to read more about the relationship Kym has with her sister, who is herself a talented pianist, (albeit not at Kym's level) as they become adults. The second surprisingly intriguing aspect is the world of instrument dealers in which Kym becomes embroiled, partly from necessity and partly from a long relationship with a dealer, Matt. It's a world where art and money are intimately bound, where people fly across the world to view an instrument and deliberate over its purchase in the same way ordinary mortals agonise over buying a house. This arena is arguably even more closed off to the average person than that of the professional soloist (unless you're a multimillionaire buying Strads for fun), as it is mostly invisible; to read about it is enthralling.

It is easy to become frustrated with Kym, as there are episodes in which she comes across as very passive. She allows other people to make decisions for her even when she admits that she knows those people don't necessarily have her best interests at heart. Her intimate connection to her violin means that she almost becomes an object herself, and while the book is of course an assertion of Kym as a subject, there are many points in Gone when I wanted her to take control and act selfishly. Kym is of course a musician rather than a writer, and at times the writing is not as tight as it could be, making the book feel a little loose and repetitive. In the early part of the book, Gone sometimes veers towards sentimentality, but this largely disappears once Kym reaches her teenage years.

For lovers of music, Gone is an incredible insight into a largely hidden world, and will have the reader rushing to listen to the many works which Kym describes playing with such passion.

Further reading suggestions: Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks, Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Buy Gone by Min Kym at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Gone by Min Kym at Amazon.co.uk

Buy Gone by Min Kym at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Gone by Min Kym at Amazon.com.


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