*I received an ARC of this book from Candlewick to review*
Private Lessons by Cynthia Salaysay
“In a standout debut for the #MeToo era, a young pianist devotes herself to her art — and to the demanding, charismatic teacher she idolizes.
After seventeen-year-old Claire Alalay’s father’s death, only music has helped her channel her grief. Claire likes herself best when she plays his old piano, a welcome escape from the sadness — and her traditional Filipino mother’s prayer groups. In the hopes of earning a college scholarship, Claire auditions for Paul Avon, a prominent piano teacher, who agrees to take Claire as a pupil. Soon Claire loses herself in Paul’s world and his way of digging into a composition’s emotional core. She practices constantly, foregoing a social life, but no matter how hard she works or how well she plays, it seems impossible to gain Paul’s approval, let alone his affection. Author Cynthia Salaysay composes a moving, beautifully written portrait of rigorous perfectionism, sexual awakening, and the challenges of self-acceptance. Timely and vital, Private Lessons delves into a complicated student/teacher relationship, as well as class and cultural differences, with honesty and grace.”
If you like:
- Asian-American MC
Then you might like this book!
I was given the opportunity to read an early copy of this book through an Asian book blogger tour company and of course I wanted to read it because it was one of the few books that I was wanting to read this year because of the synopsis of an Asian American MC who plays the piano reminded me so much of myself that I had instantly added it to my want to read list after I got done working on my list of upcoming 2020 releases that day. And, to be honest the whole student/teacher relationship in theory didn’t bother me in the beginning since I’m currently reading a series where there’s a relationship like that but there’s only three year between that particular couple, but once we was first introduced as a man with graying blond hair… yeah, I had a problem with that relationship.
I got about halfway through the ARC before I decided not to read it for a number of reasons other than the relationship with Paul (although I didn’t get to the point where they had done anything sexual). I had started to read the book towards the beginning of May to give myself enough time to read/review the book before the publication date, but as I was getting through the book that I did, I knew that it was going to be a book that wouldn’t enjoy, so I decided to wait to publish my review until some time had passed.
Claire has a rocky relationship with her mom that worsens as time passes after the death of her father. Claire wants to live the “American” life that is surrounding her in California, but her mom wants Claire to stay close to the Filipino roots and culture. She buys tight fitting clothes that she knows her mom won’t like, wears makeup that is more than the natural look, drinks and smokes, and stays out late.
In the beginning of the book, I saw a lot of myself in Claire because we both have a strong connection to wanting to be perfectionist and struggles with the thought of failing in anything that we attempt, playing classical music on the piano, and wanting to just fit in and be accepted.
Claire doesn’t have many friends… okay she has one friend at high school but that relationship is quickly severed because her friend gets a boyfriend and Claire feels like the third wheel around them, but it’s not like that matters or anything because Claire gets accepted by a pretty famous piano teacher in the area to teach and refine her skills so Claire has a shot to get a scholarship to pay for her college tuition.
As Claire spends more time on the other side of town where her piano teacher Paul lives and teaches, she starts to live the life she wants. This is when she starts to stay out past her curfew and giving little thought about her mom and homelife and honestly acting like she’s better than other’s because she has an amazing piano teacher and placing pretty high in different competitions. Then, despite her friend from school trying to mend their friendship by inviting Claire to hang out with her, Claire keeps pushing it off by saying that she needs to practice.
I stopped reading the book because Claire had so many moments of her only caring for herself. I felt like she was doing a lot of things because she was trying to show her mom that she could fit in the lifestyle of America and that she didn’t need the traditions that she grew up with anymore. Claire was also very starved for attention from anyone with a Y chromosome. She started to “date” this guy who happened to be a musician. For a little while, it seemed like the relationship might work (although I was trying to figure out how if something was going to happen with Paul), but this guy ghosted her after they had sex (and it later turns out that he then started to see some other girl). I also felt like Claire’s character was on an endless loop of wanting to be different and being so irritated with the world because she had to practice so she could escape her mom.
Then there’s the whole thing with Paul that I didn’t even finish. During the lessons, he would brush his hand against her shoulder or place his hand over hers to correct the way that she way holding her fingers.
This book was a lot darker than I had expected which I think took me off guard. I felt like despite Claire being academically smart and being able to play complicated music, she had a childish attitude towards things and was so naïve.
Happy reading until next time,