“The music resumed, as strange and compelling as before. ‘And the world is going to break his heart.’” – Ruth Sims
Author: Ruth Sims
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 332
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: At eighteen Dylan Rutledge has one obsession: music. He believes his destiny is to be the greatest composer of the rapidly approaching twentieth century. Only Laurence Northcliff, a young history master at The Venerable Bede School for Young Gentlemen, believes in Dylan’s talent and encourages his dream, not realizing Dylan is in love with him. But Dylan’s passion and belief in his future come at a high price. They will alienate him from his family and lead him on a rocky path fraught with disappointment, rejection, and devastating loss that kills his dream. A forbidden love could bring the dream back to life and rescue Dylan from despair and bitterness, but does he have the courage to reach out and take it? Will he deny the music that rules his soul?
Review: Every so often a book comes along that makes me want to cry when I finish it, not because it ended sadly but because I’m sad it ended. Ruth Sims’ Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story is that book, a literary tour de force that chronicles the life of Dylan Rutledge, the youngest son of an upper-middle class family in England, in the waning years of the nineteenth century.
There are some books that can only be described as epic and as close to perfection as it’s possible for a book to be. This novel is all that and more. Ruth Sims captures the artistic revolution of the setting in lush detail and brilliant prose; the impressionists such as Renoir, who strove to reform art; the authors such as Oscar Wilde, who suffered simply for the want of living a life that society and the law judged to be wrong.
The characters are flawed and flawlessly portrayed, and I blatantly wept more than once in the telling of this story. The plot is rife with tragedies and triumphs, loss and renewal and love set in a time when enlightenment didn’t go as far as accepting a deep emotional bond between two men, nor well tolerated the innovators who sought to disrupt the status quo.
The book introduces Dylan, a teenage school boy when the story begins, and follows him through romance and heartbreak, from being ostracized by his family to the pursuit of his lifelong dream to be a great and respected composer. From England to Paris, Dylan begins a sweeping and forbidden love affair with his former school master, Laurence Northcliff, during which time a horrific accident and its aftermath derails Dylan’s as yet unrealized desire to conquer and revolutionize music, sending him into an abyss of despair that alienates and isolates him from friends and acquaintances.
As he slowly rallies himself to return to the land of the living, he seeks out the master violinist Adler Schonberg, the man who had, years before, taken in as his ward a young Gypsy boy, who is himself a prodigy on the violin. Geoffrey Dohnányi, a young man by now, is every bit as ostracized as Dylan in terms of his artistry, though unlike Dylan, Geoffrey’s talent is dismissed solely because of his Romany ancestry rather than an unconventional musical style.
Lies, bribery and the general prejudice against Geoffrey’s people see his life and talents nearly destroyed; they would have been entirely were it not for Dylan’s persistence to discredit Adler’s brother and prove his avarice and treachery. It’s a devastating and cruel fate Geoffrey suffers, which highlights the brutal treatment prisoners often were subjected to in a corrupt and unregulated system that steals from him the ability to play his violin the way he once had.
As a huge fan of historical romance, Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story is a book that has stayed with me long after its end. It’s a story that haunts with its beauty and whose characters have instantly become part of my lexicon of favorites because they are unforgettable. This is a book that has made it onto my re-readable list, vivid not because it’s fantastical and stretches the imagination, but because it reached out and grabbed me by the heart and didn’t let go even after there were no more words to love.