Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung by Min Kym

Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung

The spellbinding memoir of a violin virtuoso who loses the instrument that had defined her both on stage and off -- and who discovers, beyond the violin, the music of her own voice Her first violin was tiny, harsh, factory-made; her first piece was "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star." But from the very beginning, Min Kym knew that music was the element in which she could swim a...

Title:Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0451496078
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:227 pages

Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung Reviews

  • Rebecca Foster
    Jun 05, 2017

    The best memoirs introduce you to a life experience you’ll never know for yourself. I’m completely unmusical, so I enjoyed learning about what it’s like to be a violin virtuoso and a child prodigy, and what it means to fall in love with an instrument. Kym also puts things into the context of being a Korean immigrant to London. The central event of the book is having her Stradivarius, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, stolen from a train station café in late 2010, an event that plunged her i

    The best memoirs introduce you to a life experience you’ll never know for yourself. I’m completely unmusical, so I enjoyed learning about what it’s like to be a violin virtuoso and a child prodigy, and what it means to fall in love with an instrument. Kym also puts things into the context of being a Korean immigrant to London. The central event of the book is having her Stradivarius, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, stolen from a train station café in late 2010, an event that plunged her into a deep depression and drove her away from music for a number of years. Even after she moved on and acquired a different violin, she couldn’t forget the relationship she’d had with her Strad.

    It’s a brief and fairly immersive story, but the style is melodramatic and choppy at times, as in this sentence: “It seemed to sum up why one plays: the music you bring, the emotions you feel, encourage in others, that expression of unity, of ultimate peace, that seems to be music’s greatest gift.”

  • Evann
    Feb 01, 2017

    Min is more talented than all of us, totally knows it and I didn't hate her for even a minute. Love her writing. Love her candor in regards to all her greatness and her flaws. It reads very fresh and honest. I couldn't relate for a second but I never felt like I needed to in order to care. It almost felt as if Min didn't expect us to care, she just really needed to tell the story. A cool desperation. Which worked. I'm glad I took my time with this one.

    Thanks to the goodreads firstreads giveaway

    Min is more talented than all of us, totally knows it and I didn't hate her for even a minute. Love her writing. Love her candor in regards to all her greatness and her flaws. It reads very fresh and honest. I couldn't relate for a second but I never felt like I needed to in order to care. It almost felt as if Min didn't expect us to care, she just really needed to tell the story. A cool desperation. Which worked. I'm glad I took my time with this one.

    Thanks to the goodreads firstreads giveaway and Crown Publishing for a chance to read Gone.

  • Tracey
    Jan 23, 2017

    is the story of a woman with a violin, who had begun as a child prodigy on the violin, who had found her equivalent to a soul mate in the perfect violin for her, and from whom this violin was stolen. It was a Stradivarius, and so worth a great deal of money – but, more importantly to her, it was the instrument from which she had brought music for ten years, which she had nurtured and which had nurtured her, which she had expected to die holding. Which in a moment of weakness, of illness and

    is the story of a woman with a violin, who had begun as a child prodigy on the violin, who had found her equivalent to a soul mate in the perfect violin for her, and from whom this violin was stolen. It was a Stradivarius, and so worth a great deal of money – but, more importantly to her, it was the instrument from which she had brought music for ten years, which she had nurtured and which had nurtured her, which she had expected to die holding. Which in a moment of weakness, of illness and trust in the wrong person, vanished.

    And let me tell you, that wrong person? I believe Min tried very hard to report at least somewhat objectively, and even so I wanted something dire to happen to him.

    All the while I was reading this tale of her training and of the violin and of its loss and the violent effect that had on her, I was trying to think of something in my life that would hit me the same way. There are things I have lost that have hurt me – like the entire collection of my family's Christmas decorations, gone, which still keeps me up at night from time to time – but this … I had planned to be a painter, and there is nothing I can think of, even to a sketchbook or a work in progress or finished work, which could be as tremendous a loss as a violinist's violin.

    And, while reading this, I spent a lot of time thinking about the nature of thieves. Do they realize what they're doing when they're doing it, the pain they're inflicting, or does it simply not matter to them? I have a friend who came home one evening with her two young children to find their apartment stripped bare – people had come in and taken everything, from electronics and money to appliances to all of their clothing, to dish towel that had been hanging on the oven door handle. Did the pain and shock and horror they were leaving behind them in that empty apartment ever occur to the thieves, or was that part of the allure of the thing? Were they just looking to make as much money as possible out of the evening's work, or were they purposely looking to make it hurt as much as possible? Given the sheer thoroughness of the job, I tend to think the latter. And what forms the kind of mindset that can do something like that - or something like stealing the means with which someone earns their living, the most important part of her life? Stealing for money I can understand, just about. Stealing from people who don't have much, to injure – I begin to understand why sometimes the penalties for theft are greater than the penalties for murder. I doubt what I've just blathered on about is part of what goes into sentencing – I doubt prosecuting attorneys take a victim's trauma much into account when looking to punish the person who stole from them – but I never took theft quite as seriously as I do right now.

    In a way, my friend's loss of just about everything she owned is as close an analogy as can be made to Min Kym's loss of her Strad. I think I understand the importance of the violin as much as anyone can who doesn't play. I meant to be a visual artist, and, again, there's no equivalent in that world – steal my brushes, and it won't be much more than an infuriating outlay of money to replace them. If nothing else, Min has done a service to musicians by laying her heart open in the pages of these books, and making it just a bit more comprehensible for those of us outside her world: to steal a musician's instrument is to steal her life.

    Someone had the stupid audacity to say to her at some point that well, she could and would get another violin. Having read this story of anguish and panic and despair at the loss of, basically, an appendage, I'm not much inclined to defend that person. The only defense that can be offered is ignorance.

    My rating for this book doesn't necessarily reflect its literary quality; it's always hard to judge an advance copy (I received this through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers), because they always come with the warning that the text is not final, the promise that errors will be corrected in the final proof. So I'll put faith in the promise and heed the warning, and hope that someone sees this book as someone once saw Min – a diamond to be polished.

    Because it's an amazing story, small and intimate and immediate but also very deep in scope and applicability. Her life as a prodigy is told quite matter-of-factly, without arrogance or even really pride, as though she had little to do with it. And that's how it seems: a prodigious talent expressed itself through her, and she has merely done what was necessary to give it a good home, hone it and allow it to shape her. The instant recognition upon picking up

    Strad is like something out of a romance novel – true love at first sight. And it led to what amounted to a real marriage – each partner working with the weaknesses of the other to create something wonderful.

    Unfortunately, this story is real life and not a romance novel; the Happily Ever After lasted ten years, and then: separation. Fortunately, the loss of even a Strad can be survived in much the same way lost love is – after a lot of pain, self-doubt, second-guessing, what-ifs, bad decisions… and maybe a new love to, if not replace the old one, then fill in some of the space left empty, with a new shape. This book is the exploration of the pain, and of the healing, and an examination of who Min is, with and without a violin in her hands. For the honesty and passion of the story, I couldn't quite bear to rate this book less than five stars. And I wish the author all the best.

  • Marjorie
    Mar 22, 2017

    I very much enjoyed this heartfelt memoir by Min Kym. Ms. Kym gives us an in depth look into the life of a child prodigy. Though she longed to live a “normal” life, hers was taken up with studying and playing the violin. She loved every minute of it but she did miss not having friends or going to other children’s birthday parties. But music was her passion and she definitely kept my interest as she tells of her progress in music.

    Then she finds what she calls her “soulmate” – a valuable Stradivar

    I very much enjoyed this heartfelt memoir by Min Kym. Ms. Kym gives us an in depth look into the life of a child prodigy. Though she longed to live a “normal” life, hers was taken up with studying and playing the violin. She loved every minute of it but she did miss not having friends or going to other children’s birthday parties. But music was her passion and she definitely kept my interest as she tells of her progress in music.

    Then she finds what she calls her “soulmate” – a valuable Stradivarius. Though she had played beautifully on all of her previous violins, she knew this one was special. Her musical career started to take off until one tragic day when her violin was stolen.

    Ms. Kym writes very convincingly on how this theft affected her. I felt I was living the loss with her, though truly how could I have known how she felt when I myself have never been so attached to a musical instrument. Even so, reading her words did give me an understanding of what she went through. After studying so hard and coming so far, this one event truly upended her.

    There are parts of the book where it might be helpful to have some knowledge about music but mostly I think it would appeal to anyone who has loved and lost.

    Recommended memoir.

    This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

  • Kasa Cotugno
    Mar 22, 2017

    This book has it all. In her beautifully written memoir, Min Kym describes her life as a childhood prodigy who received notice from a very early age. From the age of six, when she first picked up a scaled down violin, she knew where her future and passion would lie. With each successive instrument, increasing in size and importance, she mastered her technique and expanded her repertoire, until, in a moment suffused with more romance than deemed possible, she met "the one," a rare 1696 Stradivari

    This book has it all. In her beautifully written memoir, Min Kym describes her life as a childhood prodigy who received notice from a very early age. From the age of six, when she first picked up a scaled down violin, she knew where her future and passion would lie. With each successive instrument, increasing in size and importance, she mastered her technique and expanded her repertoire, until, in a moment suffused with more romance than deemed possible, she met "the one," a rare 1696 Stradivarius. From their first contact, Min and her violin experienced a connection unlike any other, and this description enhanced my appreciation of the strong affinity between musician and instrument of choice, most particularly the violin as it becomes an extension of the artist, sharing breath and exaltation. If this sounds over the top, it really isn't given the attachment between Min and her violin.

    It is not giving anything away to reveal she was separated from it 10 years later when it is stolen in a London cafe. But how this is handled is so deft, it reads almost like a thriller you know the outcome of, but are powerless to prevent. So, in addition to a stunning, revealing, intimate and generous autobiography, there is also the element of crime. But she shares so much more than the mere facts of her life -- I came away with a deeper appreciation for the music, the sacrifices a musician must undergo, and also her Korean heritage.

  • Thebooktrail
    Apr 06, 2017

    Visit the locations in the novel:

    This book sang to me – what a joy to read and an honour to be inside Min Kym’s world. Despite the relatively short length of the story, this is just the written story – like a page of written music is really an entire concerto. The story of Min Kym’s journey to the violin maestro she became is something to marvel at long after you’ve finished.

    The writing is warm and friendly – I was Min Kym’s friend from the start. Her passion for music, for her violin stan

    Visit the locations in the novel:

    This book sang to me – what a joy to read and an honour to be inside Min Kym’s world. Despite the relatively short length of the story, this is just the written story – like a page of written music is really an entire concerto. The story of Min Kym’s journey to the violin maestro she became is something to marvel at long after you’ve finished.

    The writing is warm and friendly – I was Min Kym’s friend from the start. Her passion for music, for her violin stands out – it shines. But she is aware of her Korean background and the difficulties she and her family are going to go through so that she can find her rightful place in the world. At times this was so personal, I felt as if Min Kym was confessing this to me in whispers, pouring out her heart as to the journey she’s been on and the world of music she had now made her own.

    Have you ever thought about child prodigies? What it means to actually be one? I was captivate and chilled as she poured out her most intimate thoughts, the day she played with Yehudi Menuhin (the only one of two times she doesn’t mind when someone takes her violin) and plays for her. The humour and self awareness of this young girl is amazing and she is humbled – as I was reading her words.

    This story really is an amazing journey in every sense of the word. I used to play the violin myself and now marvel that Min Kym’s story is how that instrument can really sing if you are the one to teach it. A remarkable story which music lovers will connect with and readers of all kinds will rejoice at.

  • Suze
    Apr 13, 2017

    Music has always been in Min Kym's blood and from the moment she held the violin for the first time she knew this instrument would make her happy. As a child prodigy her career as a musician was settled. She played with the most inspiring teachers, who were impressed by her talent and she won many prestigious prizes. When, at the age of twenty-one, Min Kym found the instrument of her dreams, a Stradivarius from 1696, she knew she'd have a brilliant future together with her beloved instrument. Un

    Music has always been in Min Kym's blood and from the moment she held the violin for the first time she knew this instrument would make her happy. As a child prodigy her career as a musician was settled. She played with the most inspiring teachers, who were impressed by her talent and she won many prestigious prizes. When, at the age of twenty-one, Min Kym found the instrument of her dreams, a Stradivarius from 1696, she knew she'd have a brilliant future together with her beloved instrument. Unfortunately the good times didn't last, Min Kym lost the instrument that felt like an extra limb, someone stole it from her. Because this violin was her soul mate her life stopped having meaning. When she lost her Stradivarius, she lost a big part of herself.

    In Gone: A Girl, A Violin, A Life Unstrung Min Kym writes about her life. Music is the most important part of who she is. Her Stradivarius wasn't just an instrument, it was part of her soul. Losing it meant she lost much more than just the instrument itself, she stopped being able to live. A thief took her identity from her and that left a huge hole that isn't easily filled. Min Kym has always worked hard to become a top musician. She has so much talent, she instinctively knows how her favorite instrument works and she can hear things others aren't capable of hearing. She's an admirable person with plenty of determination. Even though she has a sad story to tell, her honest writing and the abundance of interesting information she shares are making her book intriguing and compelling without ever losing the integrity she has in spades.

    Min Kym openly tells about her life. She writes about her family, her teachers, the instruments she had the chance to play and her victories and failures. She describes the things she's done well in the same amount of detail as the things that have gone wrong. This made me respect her even more than I already did before I started reading her book. Min Kym might have lost her one true love, but she's strong, she shares her story with the world and she tries to find a way out of the black hole the theft made her fall in. She's a fascinating person with a story to tell and she does this with dignity, she writes in an intelligent and insightful way. I read her book in one sitting, it's moving, intense and heartbreaking, but there's also a glimmer of hope for the future. I wish with all my heart that she finds herself again and will be able to go back to the love of her life, making music she enjoys, so she can heal again.

  • Angie
    May 22, 2017

    Min Kym tackled a difficult task here: to describe a loss that few people truly understand. She spends a lot of time trying to convey her relationship to music and to her Strad, they way it became a piece of her, an extension of her most intimate and also public identity. I loved the easy way in which she discussed her relationship with specific pieces. The complicated relationships with teachers.

    There was a delay between when I downloaded this book and when I read it, and that delay was long e

    Min Kym tackled a difficult task here: to describe a loss that few people truly understand. She spends a lot of time trying to convey her relationship to music and to her Strad, they way it became a piece of her, an extension of her most intimate and also public identity. I loved the easy way in which she discussed her relationship with specific pieces. The complicated relationships with teachers.

    There was a delay between when I downloaded this book and when I read it, and that delay was long enough that I mis-remembered the genre, thinking it was a novel and not a memoir. About fifty pages in, I looked it up again because it really didn't feel right. Most novels about music and musicians are rather flowery, trying to establish in language the magic of an aural art form. She just doesn't do that. She lives music and only feels human when she is playing, but her narration voice is rather grounded, almost matter-of-fact. This is refreshing -- it's how musicians actually talk about music. Music is powerful, suited to a certain mood, tricky, but a solid thing that she lives with.

    I really enjoyed her description of her childhood and her relationship with the violin and then the shock when it was taken. What followed was bereft of music, however, and it lacked in language. There's a lot of telling rather than showing, a lot reflection, looking for reasons and excuses, but it feels unresolved, unfinished. Like she's not sure what she can admit quite yet, what was important and what wasn't. The ending feels raw, which isn't a terrible thing, but it's very much in contrast to the certainty of the first half of the book. The writing is effective but not exactly whole.

    I got a free copy to review from First to Read.

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