The Music Lesson, by Katharine Weber.

As part of this subject we were asked to write a piece of literary work, finding the inspiration in the painting we have chosen. However, I think I am not able to overcome Weber’s work, a writer named by Granta to the controversial list of 50 Best Young American Novelists in 1996.

The Music Lesson was published in 1999, and up to now it has been published in eleven foreign languages (not in Spanish). In the words oh Katharine:

‘ve had in mind a story about a woman alone in a remote Irish cottage with a stolen painting since I first traveled to Ireland in 1976, on my honeymoon. In the tiny fishing village where we spent two rainy weeks, there was still much talk about the discovery and arrest, two years before, of the Anglo-Irish woman who had rented a local cottage in order to hide a cache of paintings stolen for ransom by the IRA from the Beit Collection in County Wicklow (a theft that made the Guinness Book of World Records for record value of stolen artworks at that time).

Among those paintings was a Vermeer. I remember tramping down a muddy lane in order to peer into the windows of what locals still called “the picture cottage.” At the time, I was intrigued by the notion of this woman in solitude at the edge of the sea with some of the great paintings of the world. Did she ever look at them, I wondered. What did they mean to her? The facts of the actual case have never been of enormous significance to me. Over the next twenty years, what stayed with me were those questions.

In 1986, my husband and I bought a little house in the same village — and I can see “the picture cottage” from my window. We spend time there with our two children in the summer, but I also spend several weeks alone in Ireland each year, and it is there that I have done some of my most concentrated writing, and it is there that I began to write The Music Lesson.

The story is then based on a true story happened on Friday, April 26, 1974, when a young woman knocked on the door of Russborough House in County Wicklow. Seconds later she was joined by three men brandishing revolvers, and together they stole 19 paintings from their frames. Among these pictures there were a Goya, three Rubens, two Gainsboroughs, and the jewel of them all, Vermeer’s Lady Writing a Letter With Her Maid. The total value of the haul was set in 8 million pounds.

The pintings were early restored to their original place, but his owner, Sir Alfred Beit, gave some of these masterpieces to the National Gallery of Ireland. However, this was not the unique adventure the Vermerr’s peinting had to live, because it was stolen one more time. In 1986 Vermeer’s Lady Writing a Letter With Her Maid was stolen, and it was found in September 1993 (7 years after the robbery) in the trunk of a rented car at Antwerp AirportThe travelling Vermeer was scratched and dented.

Weber’s The Music Lesson is, then, inspired by the everyday view of that cottage rented by a thief in order to hide one of the best paintings in history. she tell the reader the story of Patricia Dolan, who is alone with a stolen Vermeer painting in an Irish cottage by the sea. How she got here is part of the story she tells; about her father, a Boston cop; the numbing loss of her daughter; and her charming Irish cousin, who has led her to this high-stakes crime.

The Music Lesson has been awarded with different honors, Among them, the New York Times Book Review Notable Book, the Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year or the Chautauqua Institution Literary Circle. selection. There are favourable critiism on the book: the New York Times says of it that it is “affecting and elegant… Weber astutely explores the gap between perception and reality”.

For further information, see http://www.katharineweber.com/books/ml_about.html

To read a good piece of criticism, see The New York Times on the Web

The Music Lesson