Vikram Seth's attempt at combining the anatomy of a string quartet with a musical romance is a very mixed bag, to say the least. Bringing his poetic language to prose, he does own a very idiosyncratic and sometimes powerful way to convey emotions and combine them with the beautiful and vivid images of places like London, the small town of Rochdale, Vienna and Venice. The parts of the book dedicated to the string quartet and the musical and personal aspects of it is interesting, even if at times too artificially "learned", as in someone who really did his homework well, in this case, studying the most minute details of chamber music playing - and making sure that everyone understand that. The weakest aspects of this book, at times truly appalling, are the sticky romance with Julia, the pianist with a secret, and the personality of Michael, the narrator himself. One might think that there would be a true tension, or symbiosis, or clash, or whatever, between the two emotional sides of Michael's love - Music Making and Julia. Well, not really. It's a story of obsessive love, and quite an egocentric and intrusive one, which becomes more and more irritating as one reads further on. At the end, the self pity and emotional blindness is so exhausting that it's hard to emotionally follow the fate of Michael. I wish I could enjoy it more, especially after hearing a reading of parts of the book by Seth himself here in St. Paul. Ugh.