An Equal Music by Vikram Seth – Book Review

How can I review An Equal Music by Vikram Seth?  I can’t use words like ‘lovely’.  I can’t pin it down, it is “a lark ascending”, dropping a silver chain from an outer realm to earth.   It left me not with a song in my heart but with stillness beyond silence.  I believe that joy is seeking out, absorbing and reflecting on beauty.  This is the joy experienced in reading An Equal Music. 

While living between these pages, thoughts revolved around each life being a piece of music.  Certain threads run golden and true throughout.  Some relationships or moments, embraced in a single note.  There are low keys and those which soar.  The language of music shaped in pauses.  There is art in life, synchronism, our time here bound by invisible threads.

I opened the pages of An Equal Music in a primary school hall, during lulls while I acted as a party agent monitoring voter registration.  I wrote this poem.

In a school hall

the abode of innocence

languid fans turn

stirring heat

All present

dream a motherland

fitting utopian vision

black saviour

white saviour




our way

is THE way

hours pass

muting bias

an opposing fellow


clock hands turn

the fans

tick tick

something, almost imperceptible


a new dust mote

in a shaft

of African sun

Immediately after writing this, I read the following at the start of An Equal Music

“And into that gate they shall enter, and in that house they shall dwell, where there shall be no cloud nor sun, no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light, no noise nor silence, but one equal music, no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession, no foes nor friends but one equal communion and identity, no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity.”
-Sermon, John Donne, 1572-1631

I gasped aloud, what poetry, when reality rhymes.  At a midway point I recognised a thread between the book which I read previously Not That Kind of Girl by Catherine Alliott and An Equal Music.  Vastly different works yet they share a harmony, adding resonance to my life score.

It took so long to forgive Vikram Seth for the sadness of A Suitable Boy.  So long An Equal Music waited on my bookshelf.  I shall make amends.  Despite the call of unread books, I shall return to this one, it is more than a story, it is more than words.

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  1. Now you give me hope to read it too. I have had it on my shelf for years but could not find the guts after the sadness of a Suitable boy

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