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Instrumental


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I'm not often moved to review a book I've read but this is one I just can't leave.

 

Instrumental is James Rhodes' autobiography.  He is currently working as a concert pianist and he's a very good one at that.  So it was with interest that I saw his autobiography and after buying it I heard that he had been sexually abused as a child.

 

Suitably braced I started the book. And I was wholly unprepared for it's contents.  James does go into details in various parts of the book of the abuse he suffered for over a decade, and he swears in this book - and not just the f-word - far too much and, imho, unnecessarily, which he admits.  It is written very well indeed and James comes across as highly intelligent and extremely talented, only one of which (intelligence) he can acknowledge, even now. 

 

The book is divided into chapters which he calls tracks (like tracks on a record) and he introduces a different composer who has meant a lot to him over the years in each track.  He does a  little introduction to the composer and then gets on with his own life.

 

James writes eloquently even though he swears a lot and describes in detail the effects that the sexual abuse had on him.  And it's not what you think (those words are actually written in the book).

 

He is very passionate about classical music and the piano in particular and believes that it's that passion which kept him alive.  He also does not mince his words.  Interestingly, especially given our thread on the subject of celebrities writing about the abuse they suffered, he gives a reason for writing his autobiography at the age of 38 and it's a stunningly simple one.  In a nutshell, he feels that the sexual abuse of children should be brought out into the open and acknowledged.  Before Savile, vicitms were shamed into keeping quiet, family/friends/the police didn't want to know and victims were somehow blamed for being abused - he told a family member about it when he was an adult and her immediate response was "but you were such a beautiful boy, James" (!).  For my part, I am appalled that clear opportunities were missed to protect him - I'm not going into detail for obvious reasons but if I had been an adult in contact with him when he was that age I would have done something about it.  Yes I would.

 

Despite the overall abuse theme running through the book it's not as miserable as you would imagine.  James has survived. He finishes the book saying that he is always two bad weeks away from another hospital visit but at the time of writing was happier and more fulfilled than he'd ever been in his life.

 

So, would I recommend this book?  Yes, I would.  I learned a lot and not just about abuse and it's effects but about classical music and piano playing at concert level.  It's a very well written book and worth a read.  However, it does contain detailed sexual abuse of a child as young as six and the life time effects of same. And it does contain a lot of swearing.  Perhaps that's why I wanted to review it.

 

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I remember hearing about this book. He is separated from the mother of his child, and she tried to prevent him from publishing because she felt the contents would upset their child, who has some sort of condition or disability like autism. There was a court battle over whether he should have had freedom to publish. If I remember correctly.

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