Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Alchemy of Chance, - Review by John Hayes at Robert Frost's Banjo

A short quote from a really wonderful review of The Alchemy of Chance, over at Robert Frost's Banjo. John Hayes is a formidable poet and a musician and does the sensuality of Peter's book justice. Do your winter reading list a favour and check it out.

"Aurélie stood up and stepped forward, discarding the bow, which she thrust down her waistband, and the dark glasses, which she stuffed down her white Indian shirt inside her bra. Her legs slightly apart, her knees slightly bent, a towering six-footer on the edge of the stage in a flowing white gypsy skirt, plucking a four-foot bright white cello strapped around her neck like a guitar, she led the band into a spine-tingling intermediate cadence, minor to major….She moved her left foot forward to tease up the pedals and slowed her playing right down, this time bending the notes like a jazz sax-player. Long and high, they soared across the room above the audience’s heads, echoed round ceiling corners and wall joints, returning to pierce the backs of their necks and shiver their spines. Then she made a quarter-turn in the direction of the bass-player, with a silent invitation to fill some empty spaces."

I quoted this at length not only because I believe it’s a fine example of Mr Brooks’ descriptive abilities, but also because it shows his belief in the power of transformation; not only does Aurélie’s improvisation transform the audience, it transforms her & the very space they all inhabit. But—& this is a crucial point in the novel—this transformation isn’t effected by Aurélie alone, but by her working in concert with the other band members. In the same way, the disparate lives come together in the narrative as a whole with transformative power.

John Hayes Robert Frost's Banjo.


  1. So glad you liked the review--let's hope it brings Mr Brooks some readers!

  2. An excellent review by John and I am very keen to read this book!


  3. From Howards Way Book Club UK. 2 of our members have read The Alchemy of Chance and the following comments were made. Wonderful descriptions of France and French cooking. Aurelie is a strong and interesting character and the journey through France was enchanting. On the critical side from our club members were many of the other characters paled into insignificance and one did not engaged with them. I am awaiting one further book club member to submit her comments. I personally feel that this would make a good movie taking into account our criticisms