In Counterpoint: Dylan's Story, Ruth Sims gives us two stories for the price of one, contrasting love stories that echo one another across the years. In the first half of the book, we experience the first tentative stirrings of love from a young man infatuated with an older gentleman. In the second the tables are turned, and we instead experience a similar love from the perspective of the older, more experienced suitor.
Over the course of the novel Dylan grows and develops, maturing through his relationships, and sustained by his love for music. A talented, but misunderstood young man, Dylan finds himself musically and emotionally through the efforts of a tutor by the name of Laurence. Self-confident to the point of arrogance, Dylan is determined to redefine the world of music with his compositions. In many ways, he's like a 19th century rock star, ahead of his time, misunderstood by his peers, and a victim of his own success. As much as he may be hard to warm up to emotionally, you cannot help but admire his tenacity in pursuing his dream.
His affair with Laurence does serve to smooth some of his rough edges, and balance out his arrogance, but it also propels him to make some difficult choices . . . and nearly destroys him when the affair comes to an abrupt end.
That brings us to the second half of the story, in which the roles and reversed and an older, wiser, more nature Dylan takes a young violinist under his wing - both musically and romantically. Geoffrey was, for me, the high point of the novel. A child prodigy and a gypsy, he's looked down upon by his peers out of jealousy, and by society out of prejudice. Where Dylan was arrogant and angry, Geoffrey is more naive and vulnerable - much more the typical sympathetic artist. While their relationship mirrors that of Dylan and Laurence, it's not an intentional choice on Dylan's behalf to repair his past.
At times difficult, but also exciting, this is a historical drama, two love stories, and a book about music all at the same time. It's a fascinating tale, and one that hits so hard emotionally because it manages to engage the reader intellectually. Ruth makes the reader both think and feel, which makes it hard to move on when things get dark, but ultimately makes the entire read more significant and satisfying.
[Reviewed by Sally]