“What he wants most in the world is to cut off his own hands.”
You’d think with an opener like that, a book couldn’t get any better, but this one does. A Thousand Perfect Notes is the highly anticipated debut of C. G. Drews (aka PaperFury), blogging Queen of darkness and dragons. It will hit you hard in the feels. Be prepared. Go into it with tissues and cake to hand. Maybe a gin. This is my wisdom. If you choose to ignore it, you’re on your own and you will get none sympathy from me when you dissolve into a puddle of anguish.
Beck’s mother, the Maestro, wants one thing: for her son to become a piano playing prodigy and take the music world by storm. He is expected to prioritise playing the piano over everything; school and friends are not important when you’re going to be a famous pianist. The Maestro suffered a stroke and saw her own dreams of becoming a renowned player smashed into pieces, so she projects her dreams onto her son. This is not a good parenting strategy, in case you were wondering. Beck wishes he could break his own hands, but acknowledges that he can’t, not because it would be painful or inconvenient, but because if he did, “she’d really kill him”. He tries his hardest to be a good pianist for his mother, but nothing he does is good enough.
“I wanted a prodigy. And what did I get? You. You worthless disappointment”
Poor Beck. He broke my little dark heart into pieces. Honestly, for most of this book, I just wanted to reach into the pages and cuddle him. He hates his mum. He hates playing the piano. He hates trying to be perfect. He hates that he isn’t perfect. He has a lot of pent up feelings and anger, and with a mother who is only interested in him for one reason, who can blame him for having so much hatred and anger? He is genuinely terrified of his mother, when he plays in public, he is crippled with stage fright, not because there are loads of people out there staring at him:
“The terror isn’t the performance – it’s the aftermath with the maestro”
He is terrified that he will do something wrong and that she will unleash her fury on him. She is physically and emotionally abusive. If these are things that are likely to trigger you, then I’d advise against reading this book.
On one occasion, Beck forgets the notes for the piece he is meant to play, so he plays his own piece of music. The audience love it, but the only reaction he is concerned with is his mother’s and she is not happy (major understatement). She tells Beck: “You will kill me with your disgrace”. Way to encourage your child Maestro. Beck tries to rebel by not practising any more, but ultimately the Maestro gets her own way and he goes back to his piano.
At school, Beck finds himself paired with August on a school project. He tries to brush her away. The Maestro does not allow him to have friends, but August isn’t prepared to fail this project. She follows Beck around in a sweet, but borderline stalker-ish kind of way until she gets under his skin. When she lends him her iPod to listen to some of her favourite music, it changes Beck’s life: the songs she listens to waken something in him and start to give meaning to his life. He discovers a love of music that has been missing. August brings a little light into Beck’s unhappy life and he starts to fall for her. I loved this idea that whilst his mother’s music was slowly destroying him, his friend’s music starts to save him. When she invites him to her birthday, the only gift she asks for is that he write her a song. I’m not crying, you’re crying. Shush.
As their friendship blossoms, the Maestro starts to make plans to send him to Germany to live with his uncle and become a better pianist. This isn’t what Beck wants, but his mother doesn’t care. Honestly, this book is like a manual on how not to be a decent mother. When she grows tired of trying to perfect Beck, the Maestro turns to his younger sister Joey. Beck loves his sister and will do almost anything to protect her.
Joey is 900% the cutest small human ever. The scene where she tastes a pickled onion for the first time had me laughing until my sides hurt. I absolutely did not want to make my own child try a pickled onion for the laughs. No Ma’am. Not me.
I loved this book. It’s dark and it’s not an easy read, but it was absolutely perfect and unlike anything I’ve read before. My only disappointment was that there are zero dragons. Where are the dragons?