Kyra by Carol Gillian was like that for me. Part of my brain kept thinking, "why am I reading this, it is boring and painful". But I still couldn't put it down. I actually read the whole thing in one long lazy Saturday afternoon.
On the face of it, there isn't a reason that I should have even picked the book up, much less been unable to put it down. I know almost nothing about architecture or urban planning and possibly less about opera. I am not in the habit of analyzing cultures, music or art. Mainly, I am not big on suffering for love. Yet with all of those strikes against it, Kyra was a strangely compelling book.
Gilmore is a graceful and fluent writer. She has a tremendous grasp of her subject matter -- architecture, opera and therapy. Somehow (against all odds), she seamlessly weaves these complex themes into a kind of love story. Interestingly enough, a love story with a "happily ever after" end.
The characters, Kyra and Andreas, are complex and have extremely complicated lives. They are both sophisticated, brilliant and creative. Their careers serve as the ballast for the emotional life. As they work together and fall in love, everything they believe begins to morph into something different.
This story of how they fall in love is strangely academic and cerebral. It shouldn't work, but somehow it does.
Kyra is more than a love story but less than a romance. Difficult to explain. This is a book you need to experience.
I suspect that urban planners and opera fans would find this book a treasure trove of ideas and sensations. Psychologist and people familiar with psychotherapy would find it challenging. And yet it also works for the casual reader. Certainly, it is not everyone's cup of tea.
This is a great book club selection. The story and themes are great discussion material. And yet, you don't need to belong to a book club to read and enjoy this book.
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Here is the publishers synopsis:
An unforgettable novel about love–and the first work of fiction by the author of the groundbreaking nonfiction bestseller In a Different Voice
Kyra is an architect, involved in a project to design a new city. Andreas, a theater director, is staging an innovative production of the opera Tosca. Both have come through political upheaval and personal loss. Neither wants to fall in love. Yet when she asks him, “What is the opposite of losing?” and he says, “Finding,” it galvanizes a powerful attraction, and they risk opening themselves to love once again.
When their love affair leads to a shocking betrayal, Kyra’s fierce determination to see under the surface, to know what was true and real, brings her to Greta, a remarkable therapist. As the therapy itself repeats the themes of love and loss, Kyra challenges its structure, and the struggle that ensues between the two women opens the way to a larger understanding.
Passionate and revolutionary, Kyra is an exquisitely written love story, imbued with gentle humor. This is an extraordinary work of fiction by one of the most brilliant writers of our time.