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Northumberland: the winter of 1937. In a remote moorland cottage, Steven Coulter, a young history teacher, is filled with sadness and longing at the death of his wife. Through a charismatic colleague, Frank Embleton, and Frank’s sister, Diana, he is drawn into the beguiling world of a group of musicians, and falls gradually under their spell. But as war approaches a decision is made which calls all their lives quite shockingly into question.
Moving between the beauty and isolation of the moors, a hill-town school and a graceful old country house, Trio delicately explores conscience and idealism, romantic love and most painful desire. Throughout it all, the power of music to disturb, uplift and affirm is unforgettably evoked.
‘This is a beautifully written and moving account of loss and grief that spans two generations. Perhaps unusually, it’s a perceptive study of how a widower copes with bereavement rather than the more usual topic of the widow’s response to the death of the spouse. The landscape and natural world of southern Northumberland are evoked vividly and precisely. Its society in the 1930s is brought to life across the span from the wealthy to the poor with great conviction. The way in which the harshness of two wars and the diseases of poverty are faced by the author is just one of the elements that makes this novel so affecting.’ —Charles Palliser
‘Trio is a gentle, elegiac meditation on grief, carved into the bleak, rugged moorland of Northumberland, anchored firmly in a rich, ever-changing landscape. Sue Gee writes with perception about the healing power of music, setting the history of an ancient land into the context of a modern world, making sense of the inevitable sad passage of time. The enduring strength of love and family forms a fragile but supple backbone to the novel, maintaining its power in the face of looming cataclysmic world events. A book to be read carefully and savoured.’ —Clare Morrall
‘The elegance with which Gee orchestrates these elements is what makes Trio such a gentle read, both heartwarming and heart-wrenching in equal measure. The focus on those universal experiences of love and grief transcend its period setting to produce something deeply human.’ —Film and Other Assorted Buffery
‘Threading its way through each of the big themes of the novel, music is an ever-present force. On one level, the trio referred to in the title are Margot and the other two musicians with whom she regularly plays in concerts and recitals. Gee’s accounts of music and the effect that it has on its listeners are magnificent: Steven comes from a totally non-musical family, and his awakening upon listening to the trio to the power and pleasures of music are masterfully evoked.’ —Christina James
‘A beautiful work of literary fiction, it’s full of originality … Trio is difficult to put down. It’s a gorgeous escape back in time that for all its – needed – sadness, is gripping.’ —Charlie Place, The Worm Hole
‘This is a gentle book … rich in atmosphere. Gee writes with great feeling about the natural world and the music that, for her characters, holds so much significance.’ —Stephanie Cross, Daily Mail
‘Trio is a book that rewards your careful attention; you will probably, if you are like me, want to gobble it up, but its observation of human behaviour, of the fault lines of friendships and the limitations of love, is of the subtlest sort. Its generous anatomization of grief and fallibility, and the immense trust it places in the power of music, has earned it a spot on my shelf of Books To Save From Fire. This summer, you really should be reading it too.’ —Eleanor Franzen, Elle Thinks
‘This is a novel about the power of classical music to reach us and to heal us. A love story of two kindred spirits unfolds … They write letters — letters! I had forgotten how exciting love letters could be. [T]he beautifully evoked late-1930s atmosphere is thrown into relief in the last section of the book. With her finely tuned ear for both language and music, the author brings us powerfully into the world of this generation as well as the last.’ —Ysenda Maxtone Graham, Country Life
‘During her lengthy writing career, Sue Gee has garnered a breadth of acclaim that encompasses the Romantic Novel of the Year award for Hours of the Night and an Orange Prize longlisting for The Mysteries of Glass. In Trio, her tenth novel, she once again explores what she does best: the relationship between community and the lonely interior world of the human spirit.’ —Rachel Hore, Bookoxygen
‘★★★★ Sue Gee's tenth novel is a sensitive portrait of life's transience and the things that give us purpose. In the late 1930s, a widowed history teacher in Northumberland finds a new lease on life when he falls for one of the members of a local trio of musicians.’ —Rebecca Foster, The Bookbag
‘Trio exhibits all Sue Gee's hallmarks – an unhurried narrative, measured handling of material, particularly of the story's emotional substrate, a calmness and restraint in plotting, beautifully drawn characters, and a feel for place such that she could be called a landscape artist with words … But as I've said above there's so much more than that to Trio, and I can't recommend it too highly. Sue Gee is a writer of clarity and quality, a Bawden or Ravilious, a Reynolds Stone or Clare Leighton of prose, and reading her work is pure pleasure.’ —Cornflower Books
‘★★★★ I was deeply moved by its storytelling. It really seemed to embody grief, to demonstrate its impact, and to consider the questions of how we move on after losing those we love. It is a book I will return to again and again.’ —Joy Isabella
‘I can't remember when I last enjoyed a book as much as this. I got it from the library a couple of days ago, in a mad dash just before closing time – started it after dinner – and regretfully turned out the light with throbbing eyes at 5am and realised I had read the night away.’ —Mrs Miniver’s Daughter
‘Sue Gee writes subtly and deftly, observing with a wry and sympathetic eye … This is a hugely enjoyable and rewarding read.’ —The Independent
‘About The Mysteries of Glass:
one of the most moving and beautifully written stories that I can remember.’ —Readers Books of the Year, Guardian
‘About Reading in Bed:
as seductively readable as its title suggests ... draws the reader in with its skilful portrayal of real-life situations’ —The Times
‘A beautifully observed tale, written with boundless compassion and humour.’ —Woman and Home magazine
‘Profound and lyrical, it’s full of light and darkness and the most marvellous description.’ —Shena Mackay, Observer