Review: Trumpet, by Jackie Kay

9780330511827Synopsis: The death of legendary jazz trumpeter Joss Moody exposes an extraordinary secret, one that enrages his adopted son, Colman, leading him to collude with a tabloid journalist. Besieged by the press, his widow Millie flees to a remote Scottish village, where she seeks solace in memories of their marriage. The reminiscences of those who knew Joss Moody render a moving portrait of a shared life founded on an intricate lie, one that preserved a rare, unconditional love.


Title: Trumpet
Author: Jackie Kay
Publisher: Picador
Pub Date: 1st January 1988
Pages: 278
ISBN: 9780330511827

Rating: 5stars

Inspired by Billy Tipton, an American Jazz musician who was discovered to be a woman on his death bed, Trumpet is one of the most beautifully written and poignant books I am likely to read this year.

Kay explores issues of gender, race and identity in the modern world without bitterness, judgement, or hatred. This is a story of each individual discovering their own identities and their place in what can be a horribly judgemental society.

But most of all, this is a story of love. I was completely and utterly moved Millie’s grief over her husband’s death. Her quiet reflections of the couple’s life together are more powerful and heartbreaking than any extravagant expression of love and grief could have been.

“When the love of your life dies, the problem is not that some part of you dies too, which it does, but that some part of you is still alive.”

But Millie’s is not the only perspective on offer; we delve into the minds of multiple narrators, each with distinctive characters. Colman, Millie and Joss’ adopted son, finds out his father’s secret at the funeral home and drowns his grief and betrayal with a big dose of revenge and a bottle of whisky. A bit of an idiot, in my opinion.

Sophie Stones, journalist and ghost writer to Colman’s book, is determined to break Moody’s story to the world and turn herself into the famous, glamorous name she has always dreamed of becoming. Also an idiot, and my least favourite character.

And the most upsetting (or uplifting – I haven’t quite decided yet) thing of all is that, of all the characters, there was only one who was most in control of their own identity; most comfortable with their lot in life; who lived for their passions and loves. The person who was the most free and comfortable in their own skin, was Joss Moody – the man who had to hide part of his identity from society to be accepted.

Trumpet isn’t a page-turner; it is an absorbing and beautifully written story and one I would read again and again.

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