To be gifted, and intensely passionate about music, is something that many of us will never be familiar with and can only admire from afar. Steffi, the fifteen year old girl living in Sweden, has jazz and blues music and rhythm in her soul, in her fingers and in her feet. She is a gifted Bass player and is learning the clarinet. However, there is no one who really understands this young girl’s world. She lives at home with her parents, an older sister and a younger brother. Communication is rather limited between parents and the teenagers, not unusual.
However, Steffi is different. Apart from the music in her head, she comes from a different ethnic background to her classmates, and is horrendously bullied by some spiteful girls. One day, Steffi is walking down the street, when she hears blues music coming from a window. When she looks up, she sees an old man sitting at the window, smiling and tapping to the music. He smiles at her and waves her to come up.
Alvar, the man in the window, lives in an old folk’s home. As Steffi timidly enters his room he introduces himself and they begin their discussion of the music he is playing and it soon becomes apparent that he was an accomplished musician.
Steffi visits him often after that and becomes well known to the friendly nurses. As Steffi gradually unwinds she talks to him, and he begins to share his life story with her, telling her of how he became a famous name in the jazz world of Stockholm. His world gradually impinges on Steffi’s, and she begins to see the terrible bullies who make her life miserable, in a pathetic role.
The twofold stories are both fascinating. Alvar was a country boy who had come to Stockholm to discover a path for his music, and Steffi has to deal with growing up and applying for a scholarship to a music School. The characters he talks about with great love and kindness, become closer when we find them in the Nursing home with him. The times Alvar talks about are during the Second World War, when Sweden was supposed to be a neutral country and yet there were many restrictions.
There are many interesting aspects to this story. Steffi’s final exam paper deals with jazz music during the Second World War, and we get to read what she has written, most of which has been derived from the many conversations with Alvar.
Through this unlikely friendship Steffi learns of the true value of friendship, and how to escape through music, to move on to a happier place with compassion and confidence. This is a wonderful young adult story (enjoyed by an older adult.)
|Publisher||Allen and Unwin|
|Distributor||Allen and Unwin|