An emotionally charged story of music, abuse and, ultimately, hope.
Beck hates his life. He hates his violent mother. He hates his home. Most of all, he hates the piano that his mother forces him to play hour after hour, day after day. He will never play as she did before illness ended her career and left her bitter and broken. But Beck is too scared to stand up to his mother, and tell her his true passion, which is composing his own music – because the least suggestion of rebellion on his part ends in violence.
When Beck meets August, a girl full of life, energy and laughter, love begins to awaken within him and he glimpses a way to escape his painful existence. But dare he reach for it?
When the blurb said emotionally charged, they meant emotionally charged. It’s hard to describe this novel other than absolutely heart-wrenching. It tears heart-strings apart and activates your tear ducts to the max. This novel has been very highly anticipated in the book community due to the fact that the author is a very well-known and popular blogger in the community. We were lucky enough to get to chat with the queen herself, C.G. Drews for an interview, which you can find after this review.
A Thousand Perfect Notes depicts the story of Beck, a teenager who doesn’t live the life of a normal teenager because he spends basically all his time playing piano. All day, every day used to be a funny meme until we met Beck, a prodigy who plays to the point of his fingers bleeding as he lives under the tyranny of The Maestro. As the Maestro enters the stage, this is where unfortunately a dozen trigger warnings for this book must be mentioned as Beck is seen under her extreme treatment and constant abuse. The Maestro is his mother, German like he is, who as a result of an unfortunate illness can no longer be the famous pianist she once was, and therefore tries to live out her dreams through Beck. We go through this abuse with Beck as we see the Maestro constantly criticising and forcing him to play incredibly difficult Chopin pieces, as well as physically abusing him for never being good enough according to her standards from when she used to play the piano as a prodigy teenage pianist herself. Important themes of mental health, obsession and control are integral in the Maestro’s character and truly brings so much depth to the story.
The terror isn’t the performance – it’s the aftermath. She’s unforgiving over a mistake.
The representation of domestic abuse in this novel is done extremely well. Readers can honestly feel the pain and suffering flowing off the page, yet that undeniable sympathy, understanding and determination Beck has because she is his mother and desperately hopes for some affection. The terrible and conflicting relationships in cases of domestic abuse are so hard to convey, and Drews wrote it impeccably so that we felt just as torn, angry, sad and hopeful as Beck did.
The only titbit of brightness in Beck’s life is Joey, his bright and strangely violent 5-year-old sister, that he hopes to shelter from the Maestro by practising the piano diligently. Joey provides a small out to the misery of home and takes on the role of the occasional family chef while he plays, by creating some monstrosities such as a peanut butter, tomato sauce and raw pasta shell sandwich. Beck’s life and self-esteem continue to get worse, adding to his anxiety and depressed moods, that is until Beck befriends the all too happy and confident August—a happy-hippy-go-lucky girl from a warm family that inevitably takes a liking to Beck and begins to try to make him understand how much love and happiness he deserves. Her warm and vibrant personality persists in helping Beck, not just in making the best of his situation but to enlighten Beck into doing what he wants and what he deserves for once. Drews draws us into the happy, quirky moments filled with laughter, cake and Beck’s exploration of his gift for composing music, acting as a major juxtaposition to his grim and starved home life.
You get super crabby when you’re hungry.’ She flashes a cheeky grin. “But I fixed that for now.’ He considers shoving her into a puddle.
This novel was an emotional ride, Drews’ writing was perfect in that it had the perfect balance of seriousness and humour. From very thoughtful and sober moments to heartfelt conversations and funny internal dialogue which obviously makes you want to cry either way from sadness and happiness.
This book was stunning and is highly recommended. A beautiful contemporary perfect for this season and bound to be read in one sitting by many readers like myself. It was also extremely momentous in that Drews, as a blogger was able to reach her dreams of becoming a published author and just shows that if she can do it, any other book blogger can as well. We, at The Nerd Daily, strive to encourage any aspiring writers to keep writing!
Author Interview with C.G. Drews
As a Blogger Queen turned Author, can you describe how it feels right now in 5 words to finally have your debut novel be out into the world?
It’s completely magical and surreal!
What inspired you to write A Thousand Perfect Notes?
Inspiration always comes from everywhere for me! I collect shiny pieces and then see how I can tangle them together into stories. ATPN came together from my want to retell a classical composer’s life in modern times (can’t say the name for spoilers, but you’ll know when you read the book!) and also add in a smidge of a genderbent Cinderella and centre it around music. I’m a musician myself, so it was fun writing about it! I also wanted to talk about darker topics, like violence, obsession, and how other people can poison your self-worth. But this is set against the sweetness of friendship and hope! It was amazing being able to tell this story.
A Thousand Perfect Notes explores some very strong themes, was it as heart-wrenching to write, as it is for us to read?
I definitely ached for Beck as I wrote and cheered with him when something good happened in his life.
A Thousand Perfect Notes introduced Beck and August, how would you describe them in your own words?
Beck is a very quiet and introspective boy, fiercely protective and patient with his little sister, and he craves a life of freedom but is too trapped to chase it. He loves composing and is uses the music in his head as an escape. He’s gangly and awkward too, which is fun to write!
August is basically the definition of puppies and rainbows! And she’s a passionate girl who believes no one should be mistreated. She will fight you about this! She’s also the kind of person who will stay with you during a hard time, not to bully you into action or throw glittery positive statements around – but to listen. And give cake.
Out of the two, which character do you think was the easiest or hardest to develop when telling this story?
Beck was easiest for me, because I related to his introversion and seriousness. Whereas August is an extrovert (gah, help)! I also worked hard on August so she’d come across as not someone manic and here to fulfil a boy’s dreams – but a girl who’s genuinely happy and will fight for kindness.
What Hogwarts house would you put them in?
Beck is most definitely Hufflepuff, while August is Ravenclaw, and Joey (Beck’s 5 year old little sister) is a Gryffindor!
What was your favourite part of the writing process?
I really love developing stories, plotting them out, and writing outlines. It’s a magical time when creativity is going at 100% and you can’t wait to type out those first lines.
From your bio, we know that you also enjoy playing the piano, are you familiar with or can you play any of the pieces Beck continuously practices?
Noooo! I am mostly self-taught and while I do love playing classical music, I definitely fail at the complex pieces child prodigy Beck played! (Chopin is a nightmare. I’m so so sorry, Beck.)
Cake is obviously the best food, so what kind of cake is your favourite?
I have to admit I love chocolate brownie cheesecake…a lot.
What do you hope readers will take away from this novel?
I hope they’ll take away a piece of light from the darkness and the powerfully quiet thread I wove through the book that says you are absolutely worthwhile, no matter what you do or don’t achieve.
Thank you C.G. Drews for agreeing to do this amazing interview. I look forward to reading all of her upcoming novels!
Thank you to Hachette Australia for providing me with an advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review.