Under the Visible Life

Under the Visible Life

Book - 2015
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Penguin Putnam
 Fatherless Katherine carries the stigma of her mixed-race background through an era that is hostile to her and all she represents.  It is only through music that she finds the freedom to temporarily escape and dream of a better life for herself, nurturing this hard-won refuge throughout the vagaries of unexpected motherhood and an absent husband, and relying on her talent to build a future for her family.

Orphaned Mahsa also grows up in the shadow of loss, sent to relatives in Pakistan after the death of her parents. Struggling to break free, she escapes to Montreal, leaving behind her first love, Kamal. But the threads of her past are not so easily severed, and she finds herself forced into an arranged marriage. For Mahsa, too, music becomes her solace and allows her to escape from her oppressive circumstances.

When Katherine and Mahsa meet, they find in each other a kindred spirit as well as a musical equal, and their lives are changed irrevocably. Together, they inspire and support one another, fusing together their cultures, their joys, and their losses—just as they collaborate musically in the language of free-form, improvisational jazz.

Under the Visible Life takes readers from the bustling harbour of Karachi to the palpable political tension on the streets of 1970s Montreal to the smoky jazz clubs of New York City.  Deeply affecting, vividly rendered, and sweeping in scope, it is also an exploration of the hearts of two unforgettable women: a meditation on how hope can remain alive in the darkest of times when we have someone with whom to share our burdens.



Publisher: Toronto : Hamish Hamilton, c2015
ISBN: 9780670065325
Branch Call Number: FIC ECH
Characteristics: 348 p. ;,22 cm.

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hRuth
Jul 07, 2016

I really enjoyed this book, probably more for personal reasons. We were a professional jazz family and all of Katherine's Hamilton, ON connections were part of my husband's career; even had the same booking agent :-) This is my 3rd Echlin novel and the determination and maverick style of these women musicians back in the 60's was quite thrilling.

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ms_mustard
Feb 06, 2016

another compelling Echlin novel.

s
sharon711
Jan 12, 2016

A wonderful story of two women raised in wildly different cultures. They face many of the same problems and share many of the same talents, and eventually their diverse paths bring them together... in Canada. A poignant statement about what it means to love, to be a woman regardless of culture, and to deal with the strangeness that is man.

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mogie
Sep 04, 2015

I won this ARC a few months ago and finally got around to reading it. I wish I had have read it sooner! I had a difficult time putting it down. If you've read any of my previous reviews you would know I enjoy short chapters. This book has them. Additionally, the dual narratives were fantastic, breaking the book up nicely. I'm also from Hamilton so found it cool that so much of the book took place there. Just a beautifully written book. Highly, highly recommend it.

smc01 Aug 10, 2015

Beautiful character development, wonderful writing and a compelling story. This would be a great book club pick.

SPL_Melanie Apr 24, 2015

Loved this read about the entire arc of two women's lives. Music, friendship, marriages, & more. Full review found under the "summary" tab.

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GLNovak
Apr 02, 2015

This story of two women, joined by their love of jazz, follows the lives of Katherine and Mahsa as they try to fulfill their dreams of a career in music. Katherine grew up making her own decisions and carving out a life for herself and her three children through sheer drive and determination. Mahsa struggles to break free from her Pakistani family and their traditions, but is only partially successful. She does have moments of musical escape, but for her the strictures of the Muslim beliefs allow very little freedom. Her time with Katherine are the highlight of her life. The juxtaposition of the two women and how they each approach the constraints around being a woman jazz pianist in a man's world are interesting to see. I would suggest that the music is the third main character in this book, and as such demands our attention sometimes more than the women's stories do.

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SPL_Melanie Apr 24, 2015

This is a fantastic read, a story of family, friendship, and the power of music. The strong writing and international focus of Echlin’s earlier novels are also found here, creating a captivating read.

Two women, Mahsa and Katherine, are both jazz pianists who create a powerful friendship through their commitment to their art, in the face of all sorts of family ordeals. Both women have had unusual upbringings; Katherine was raised by single mother in 1950s Hamilton, Mahsa was raised by her strict Uncle & Aunt in Pakistan after her parents were murdered. Early on, Katherine married another jazz musician and had 3 children in quick succession; Mahsa is forced into marriage with an older man in her 20s, and has 2 children quickly. Despite their differing backgrounds, Katherine and Mahsa have much in common, including their love for piano.

They develop a friendship through jazz when Mahsa moves back to Montreal with her family, and then meets Katherine in New York. They deal with their roles as mothers, as women in the man’s world of 20th century jazz, and as independent individuals in relationship with their children, lovers, parents, friends and more.

The writing is so smooth, their stories told in counterpoint, it’s like the entire book is jazz. The writing is deep but fast moving and the characters (even the side characters) are all fully drawn and fascinating. Music is the thread that holds together this thoughtful tale of two women’s lives. If you are a music lover or enjoy stories that delve into the deeper issues that shape a life, you will find much to appreciate in this book.

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