Novelist Barbara Trapido has been delighting readers over a forty year career. In The Travelling Hornplayer (1998) she spins a tale of betrayal, misunderstanding, coincidence and the passions of youth, all with her subversive and entertaining sense of humour.
From its haunting start : "Early on in the morning of my interview, I woke up and saw my dead sister" to its grand finale at an Oxford College, The Travelling Hornplayer zips along with plot twists and character turns, shocking revelations and desperate reactions. Any attempt at summary and character explanation is dizzying, but here are a few hints: for three years, Ellen Dent has been devastated by the loss of her younger sister Lydia who had become an informal student of celebrated novelist Jonathan Goldman. Jonathan's daughter Stella, a precocious and difficult child, is unwittingly involved in Lydia's death, and Stella in turn befriends Ellen at Edinburgh University. Stella's mother Katherine, who had appeared as a dynamic character in Trapido's Brother of the More Famous Jack, becomes a passive mother in The Travelling Hornplayer. All their stories mesh together into a sparky, tragicomic puzzle.
Barbara tells James Naughtie and the gathered group of Bookclub readers how the novel was inspired by Schubert's song cycles, with their lyrics by William Muller, and how her dry wit and acerbic observations, especially of Britain's class system, come from her being an outsider. Brought up under the apartheid system in South Africa, Barbara came to London in the early 60s and became a schoolteacher.
Presenter: James Naughtie
Interviewed guest : Barbara Trapido
Producer : Dymphna Flynn
March's Bookclub Choice : Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (2005).