Read An Unfinished Score by Elise Blackwell Online


As she prepares dinner for her husband and their extended family, Suzanne hears on the radio that a jetliner has crashed and her lover is dead. Alex Elling was a renowned orchestra conductor. Suzanne is a concert violist, long unsatisfied with her marriage to a composer whose music turns emotion into thought. Now, more alone than she s ever been, she must grieve secretly.As she prepares dinner for her husband and their extended family, Suzanne hears on the radio that a jetliner has crashed and her lover is dead. Alex Elling was a renowned orchestra conductor. Suzanne is a concert violist, long unsatisfied with her marriage to a composer whose music turns emotion into thought. Now, more alone than she s ever been, she must grieve secretly. But as complex as that effort is, it pales with the arrival of Alex s widow, who blackmails her into completing the score for Alex s unfinished viola concerto. As Suzanne struggles to keep her double life a secret from her husband, from her best friend, and from the other members of her quartet, she is consumed by memories of a rich love affair saturated with music. Increasingly manipulated by her lover s widow and tormented by the concerto s many layers, Suzanne realizes she may lose everything she s spent her life working for. A story of love, loss, sex, class, and betrayal, this psychologically compelling novel explores the ways that artists lives and work interact, the nature of relationships among women as friends and competitors, and what it means to make a life of art....

Title : An Unfinished Score
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 13107916
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 271 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

An Unfinished Score Reviews

  • Suzanne
    2018-09-28 01:24

    Reading Elise Blackwell, I am always struck by her intelligence. Her sentences are exquisitely crafted, and her stories are woven with obscure facts and details. In the case of An Unfinished Score, the lives of composers, both famous and forgotten, are used as a motif. Blackwell also reveals an understanding of classical music that is almost intimidating.In an Unfinished Score, Suzanne Sullivan, violist in a struggling quartet, hears on the radio that her lover, a prominent composer, has just died in a plane crash. Suzanne must hide her grief from her emotionally distant husband Ben and her best friend, Petra, a violinist, and her deaf daughter, Adelle, who share a house with them. Meanwhile, the composer's well-heeled widow contacts Suzanne and asks her for a favor - or does she want revenge? A couple of critics complained that this novel is melodramatic and angsty. I have no problem with melodrama or angst, but I would argue that the intense emotions at the heart of An Unfinished Score are what keeps the story from being overly high brow.I, for one, loved the asides about the composers and also enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look at the classical music world. I was also interested in a subplot concerning whether or not to get a cochlear implant for Adelle. Whenever Suzanne and Adelle communicated by sign language, I found myself trying to translate the sentence into signs. At times, their level of communication seemed unbelievable. I've been signing to my deaf child for ten years, but I'm not at their level. But the rest of the novel is so well rendered that I am willing to give Blackwell the benefit of a doubt.

  • Jennifer
    2018-09-28 09:20

    From my blog...[return]An Unfinished Score is an exquisitely composed work of fiction, lyrical in tone and quality, a literary ballet, a complex story told through music, while the ending, as with a good concert, will take the reader's breath away. Suzanne Sullivan is leading a double life. She is married to Ben, yet had been seeing a married man, Alex Elling, her orchestra conductor. Suzanne learns of Alex Elling's tragic death while making dinner for her family. Suzanne is unable to outwardly mourn for Alex, cannot even attend his private funeral, yet all the while she must be supportive of her friend Petra and continue to help out with Petra's brilliant and deaf child Adele. A month after Alex's death, Suzanne meets with Olivia, Alex's widower, who has an unusual proposition for Suzanne involving her completing Alex's unfinished viola concerto. As Olivia struggles to finish the posthumous viola concerto, she relives her time with Alex all the while desperately trying to maintain her secret from Ben, Petra and Adele and continue on with her daily routine. Suzanne's character is flawed and her actions questionable, which makes her an all too realistic character. Ben, Petra, Adele, and Olivia are brought to life as imperfect in one fashion or another in this beautifully choreographed narrative, rendering each of them endearing. An Unfinished Score is poetic as well as lyrical as the feelings flow across the pages as notes in a composition. An Unfinished Score is not only a deeply moving, but also an elegant work of fiction. An Unfinished Score would make for an excellent discussion group book and without reservation I highly recommend An Unfinished Score.

  • Camelia Rose
    2018-10-20 01:13

    "In the music she will find the desire to tell him as much as he wants to hear, and, if he is willing, they will not start over but continue, a better variation on what they are."An Unfinished Score by Elise Blackwell is a part of my ongoing quest of reading modern American writers. I am ambivalent about the book. I like the setting - the classical music and life of musicians. It took me awhile to get into the characters - because of the writing style? The middle part is my favourite. I am deeply moved by the story of Suzanne, the flawed, tender-hearted protagonist. Her character is like a fine-tuned viola. Her story is not about choice but about love, self-discovery and continuing one's life with music.Most of the characters are well-crafted, perhaps except Olivia, which ruins the ending for me.

  • Eve
    2018-10-10 02:17

    Like the love affair between concert violist Suzanne and famous conductor Alex, this book is also "saturated with music." Perhaps, as some famous musician once said, "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture" - can it be done? I'm not a musician but after reading An Unfinished Score by Elise Blackwell, it appears that writing about music in the context of love, pain, regret, jealousy, and joy can be done superbly. Blackwell's prose made me hear music in my head as I read this story. Do you have to be a classical music nut to enjoy it? I don't think so. For one thing, I know very little about classical music and its history. Most of the characters are professional musicians and so much of the dialogue is about music and composers; it didn't matter that I understand all the references because the underlying subtext, which Blackwell illustrates for us beautifully, transcends them. Although, there were some moments where I winced - as when the professional musicians had collective derision for Vivaldi, whose works I happen to love! In fact, the story made me want to seek out the composers and pieces mentioned by the musician characters. As soon as I turned the last page (not any sooner because I just had to read on to find out what happened), I got on youtube and started listening to some performances. Which leads me to my next tip: if you decide to read this book - do so with a playlist of some of the works mentioned. Had I done so, it would have enriched my reading experience. The most exciting part was when Blackwell got to the titular "Unfinished Score" which the conductor's widow manipulates Suzanne into finishing. Once this entered the story - I could not put the book down. The act of composing and interpreting music was fascinating and where it leads Suzanne was unexpected. "...painstakingly though sometimes with bright flashes of insight, Suzanne tries to decipher Alex's intentions in the black marks on paper. She tries to discern which sections are joyous and which written out of pain, which reflect desire and which satsfaction. If she can put them all tgether she thinks---get each segment right and play the piece through---then she will have Alex's narrative of their love affair to twine with her own. Then maybe the story will become whole, the larger sum of her memory fragments, the parts of the story she failed to understand. Through Alex's music, she will know what happened to her."There is much more to the mystery of this unfinished score and the manipulative widow, who is drawn with a hint of evil under a mask of perfection. Blackwell's characterization could have leaned toward a more human one; in a story this complex, did she really have to be the evil wife? I think the widow could have had a bit more sympathy as being the technically wronged party. I thought the same about Suzanne's husband; he didn't seem as fully fleshed out as some of the other minor characters. But, on the other hand, An Unfinished Score is told from Suzanne's point of view and it makes sense to see your lover's wife as evil and your own husband as cold and distant if you want to justify an adulterous, if exciting, love affair (how exciting? A scene with a blindfolded violinist in a hotel room that could have been out of 9 1/2 Weeks). My final thoughts on An Unfinished Score is that like a beautifully composed and complicated piece of music, you don't need to understand all the technical aspects to enjoy it; just savor it slowly and let the story take you where it wants.

  • Agatha Donkar
    2018-10-07 03:23

    I absolutely adored this; it's flawed, I think, and a little predictable, and Suzanne is not necessarily an entirely sympathetic narrator, but it was heartbreaking and the way Blackwell writes about music is incredible.Ma, you might dig this, since the protagonist almost has your name, and is also a viola player.

  • Paul
    2018-10-24 08:14


  • Kimberly Richardson
    2018-10-13 02:12

    An Unfinished Score, written by my aether friend Elise Blackwell, is a love letter written to music. This book was an absolute delight to read and I'm just sorry that I didn't read it sooner. The story is thus: Suzanne Sullivan, a viola player in a quartet, learns that famous conductor Alex Elling has died in a horrible plane crash. She's distraught, not only for the sake that the world lost quite a talent, but that she was his lover for several years. As the book progresses, we experience Suzanne's day to day life, now that the man she truly loved is dead. Her husband, Ben (cellist and composer), and best friend Petra (violinist) with her deaf daughter Adele, all live in the same house yet Suzanne feels only grief and loss. However, as she begins to receive strange phone calls from Chicago, Suzanne will soon learn that not everything she knows is the truth and that lies are more comforting to the heart.I will admit that I really didn't like Suzanne, yet I still wanted to know what would come of her once she learned of her lover's death. Her husband seemed to love her but in a different way, while Alex, as excellently portrayed in past memories by Blackwell, ignited her passions and dared her to feel the music rather than just play it. Although I found Suzanne to be a weak character in emotions at the beginning, she carried the story to the very end and became stronger and better. Out of all of the characters, I truly enjoyed reading about Alex the most. Although he came off as such a pompous ass while alive, his death showed us that he had a human side, one that he showed to Suzanne frequently. The scene in which he and Suzanne make love as a violinist plays in their hotel room while blindfolded was one such example. Although Alex was married, the love he had for Suzanne was genuine and raw. True, he did have other lovers before her, but it felt as though he showed his true nature to Suzanne. I actually felt sorry for his wife, Olivia.Thank you as always, Elise, for your beautiful words. I look forward to reading whatever else you write.

  • lisa
    2018-10-18 07:25

    i picked this book up because i am a musician and a reader, hoping for something that was able to bring two of my loves into one happy place, and i definitely wasn't let down. although it was less happy and more passionate, less Mozart and more Rachmaninoff, it was a wonderfully constructed literary piece and i am glad to have read it.the book opens with Suzanne preparing dinner for her "family", her husband Ben, and her live-in best friend Petra and daughter Adele. the radio announces an airplane crash and the death of the most famous person on board, Alex Elling, a famous conductor and Suzanne's lover. in the wake of this news, Suzanne falls into a spiral of self-pity and loathing, all while maintaining her outward composure, and we follow her on her emotional train wreck. when Alex's widow, Olivia Elling, contacts Suzanne and blackmails her to complete Alex's unfinished viola concerto, Suzanne is faced with the painful consequences of her choices.throughout the story, flashbacks to Alex's life with Suzanne are played out, and although adultery is nothing to condone, their love story is tender and passionate. woven through with music, their love for each other is nothing like the tense and distant marriages that they each have waiting for them at home.Doloroso, he wrote over the beginning of the andante, saying, "Play it like your heart is being squeezed of its blood, so great is your pain. Play it like you are mourning for the beautiful life you might have led but were denied."the writing was very lyrical and intense, just as you'd hope from something so laced with musical innuendos and it really was a lovely, musical journey on its own. the nice thing is, i don't think you have to be a musician to appreciate that about it. there was indeed a lot of technically sound musical information, but it was presented in such an unimposing way that i think even non-musicians could appreciate it. and if you are a musician, there's enough depth and variation to the tones presented, both in the narrative and musically, that you'll wish that you could have been there to hear the performances. and for me, personally, it made me ache to play the piano only complaint about the book, and it's not really a complaint so much as an observation, is that the characters were all so distant and cold. it was often difficult to relate to or feel for them because of the icy residue that was found each time they walked into a scene. but, given the circumstances of their story, it is almost understandable. they are each, in their own way, in a very disconnected place, dealing with dishonesty, infidelity, misunderstandings, and the challenges of being struggling musicians. so, that being said, although i had a hard time really feeling for Suzanne or Petra, or particularly Olivia, they were all integral pieces to the ultimate composition of the the end, this is a story about honesty and repentance, both for friends and lovers, husbands and wives. Suzanne is forced to come to terms with her marriage, her best friend, her failing marriage and her struggling career and her flawed honesty is compelling.She stares at her hands on the keyboard, hands that belong to someone who would manipulate the affections of other people. Perhaps this is how it happens: You slip along and have your reasons, and one day you wake up as a bad person.her recollections of herself, along with those of Petra and Ben, to a lesser degree, culminate into a beautifully told story that i'd recommend to musicians and non-musicians alike.

  • Renée
    2018-09-25 03:10

    This novel, which centers around Suzanne, a viola player among a "family" of musicians, reminds a bit of the Snow White story, more of the Grimm's variety rather than Disney. Unlike many depictions of Snow White, Suzanne is not pure and blameless. Olivia, the wife of Suzanne's former lover, a famous conductor named Alex Elling, ends up in a role not unlike an evil stepmother. Noting that Suzanne has not been Alex's only lover, she has been his last, as Alex was killed on a plane that crashed. Rather than physically kill her, Olivia writes a viola concerto that she claim's as Alex's, and lords it imperiously over Suzanne to orchestrate and present. It's nearly impossible to play, and Suzanne struggles to find hr lover's intent and humanity in it. Taking perverse joy in Suzanne's struggles with the composition. it is ultimately Olivia who costs herself with her unchecked, seething jealousy, obsession and ambition, and desire to continue to stake her claim in the music world with her dead husband's name and on the back of his talented mistress.At stake is Suzanne's own marriage, a turbulent union to a composer named Ben who comes from a slightly monied family in Charleston, SC. Sen and Suzanne share a house with a violinist, Petra, Suzanne's best friend from the famed Curtis Institute, and her deaf daughter, Adele. Petra and Suzanne play together in a modestly successful string quartet. Suzanne is on display, almost as if catatonic, a casualty of both her poor decisions and Olivia's unchecked jealousy.Departing of the idea of fairy tale, the novel explores the obsessive qualities of love and music, the messy lives of the artists and would be artists. Olivia, not just cast aside by Alex, but undervalued as a Julliard trained musician herself, manipulates Suzanne with a cunning that Suzanne partially attributes to Olivia's wealth and breeding. Suzanne's status as "the other woman" complicates the novel and renders Olivia's deception, that the music is hers and written to ruin Suzanne, builds to an almost anti-climax, a fade rather than crescendo. Olivia is thoroughly unsympathetic as a character, and that Suzanne doesn't destroyer her, but renders her mute to continue with the ruse is the more believable outcome. No one fully wins, and each has individual losses that irrevocably changes them.Subplots including Petra and Ben's infidelity, Adele's deafness and Petra's decision to have a surgery performed on Adele to help her hear, Ben's family complications, and the quartet's day to day interactions leave no character, save Adele, fully blameless. But they're relate-able, flawed, and for anyone who has spent time in the performing arts, recognizable. Their world is saturated in the character's relationship to music, and above all, music rains as the ultimate obsession, the unattainable. Suzanne's and Alex's affair, revealed in Suzanne's memories, is one realized through the same obsessions with music, love, and lust, and often just as twisted as the jealousy of Olivia. The end, however, is the triumph, perhaps, of music, it's ability to push the majority of characters towards a better, if not ultimately flawed, future, and a happiness that is more contentment than joy.

  • Tyler Mcmahon
    2018-10-03 02:19

    While preparing dinner, concert violist Suzanne Sullivan hears on the radio that her long-term lover Alex—a well-known conductor—has perished in a plane crash. Living with her husband (a composer), her best friend Pertra (a concert violinist) and Petra’s deaf daughter Adele, Suzanne is forced to grieve in secret. With one foot in a dysfunctional marriage and one hand in the rearing of a child not her own, she comes to realize that it was during her stolen moments with Alex that she felt most whole. But as the story’s three movements unfold, Suzanne learns that her affair was not as secret as she believed it to be. Enter Olivia, the dead conductor’s widow, who weaves a scheme of revenge and blackmail which Suzanne must compose, arrange, and conduct her way out of.Elise Blackwell’s novels have always asked big questions. Her characters often find a wedge driven between their lives and their lives’ work. Her fans will recognize that literary cleaver in the new book, but will see it cut closer to home. This is perhaps Blackwell’s most contemporary novel, as well as her most domestic. The balances of legacy against happiness, of friendship against competition, of love against marriage even, are struck at the household level, within this original vision of a 21st century family unit. Classical musicians—at work and at home—are the perfect target for Blackwell’s prose. That dismissive and unattributed cliché of “dancing about architecture” does not apply here. This book is not so much about music as about life with music—its purpose, its redemptive power, and its limits. Art, family, and personal well-being all make conflicting claims upon Suzanne’s life—a life that feels tragically incapable of holding all that wants to be part of it.This is also Blackwell’s most accessible and fast-paced novel thus far. Starting with the plane crash on Page One, the surprises and reversals-of-fortune are relentless. An exploration of talent and relationships that’s as page-turning as a detective story, the plot is pitch-perfect and taut as an E string. Give this novel to the grandparent who once played piano, or to the dreadlocked nephew who wants to start a band. It will strike a chord with both of them, and it will resonate for days.

  • AmandaSOTP
    2018-10-21 02:08

    While I was read­ing this book, I was try­ing to think how I would describe it. And yet now that I’ve fin­ished read­ing it and sat on this review for a few days try­ing to flesh it out in my head, I find that my first thought still remains the best way to describe this book.Beau­ti­ful.There is such depth to this tale, and it is filled with such emo­tion that it reminds me of a great piece of music that could almost bring you to tears. It’s heart wrench­ing and yet, peace­ful, bring­ing you from start to fin­ish while expos­ing you to numer­ous thoughts and emo­tions you may not have expected from such a book. Black­well clearly did her research into the world of music to cre­ate such a pro­found piece of literature.Because I could con­tinue to lav­ish praise upon this book, I wanted to instead share a mem­ory that came to mind while read­ing this book. I have been a pianist for many years and by and far my favorite piece is Rachmaninoff’s Third Con­certo. Unfor­tu­nately, I am only able to play a few pages of it, and being such a dif­fi­cult piece, it is a rare occa­sion to hear it per­formed live. The first year I moved to NYC, I had the oppor­tu­nity to hear it played with the NY Phil­har­monic. I am not an overly emo­tional per­son as any­one who knows me per­son­ally will attest to, but when that piece was played, I had tears of such joy stream­ing down my face for most of the performance.For a piece of music to touch me in that way is a rar­ity and for a book, it is even more so, and so I would rec­om­mend this book to any­one, but most espe­cially to those with a deep appre­ci­a­tion for music.

  • Judy
    2018-10-10 04:25

    This brand new novel is best read in one day. The narrative arc and the emotional depth had a sumptuous impact. I never wanted to stop reading it. Suzanne is a classical violist with a non-attentive husband (also a musician as well as a composer) and a lover who conducts orchestras. On the first page Suzanne is cooking dinner when she hears on the radio that her lover has died in a plane crash. Also living with Suzanne and her husband are Petra, a violinist, Suzanne's best friend and single parent to Adele, who is deaf. The ghost of Suzanne's lost child takes up additional space in this household. None of these other characters knew about Suzanne's affair though it had been going on for several years. The sheer volume of unspoken and unheard communication amongst these people would be enough to sink such an odd "family," but Suzanne is a strong and complex person who can care for them all including herself. When the vengeful widow of the dead lover enters the story there is just no telling how it will all turn out. The world of classical music, which has become an anachronism in our modern times, is a world I know. I studied violin, played in orchestras and sang in choirs for a couple decades. Suzanne's home is in Princeton, NJ, the town where I grew up. So many elements like this made the story itself feel familiar, but in the end it was the writing that gradually seduced me and then captured my imagination. One of the best books I have read this year.

  • Donald Blum
    2018-09-25 08:09

    This has a bit of a split rating - **1/2 or ***1/2 depending on whether or not you've been a serious student of music. This is a novel written by a musical academic/professional classical musician about professional classical musicians, and, most appealingly, for them as well.Without reiterating the plot, the viola jokes abound and the sections are presented as movements of a serious orchestral piece. I was drawn to this book because I have serious musical training in my background, my father was a classical musician/academician, and even my mother was a soprano voice major. For the most part it didn't disappoint, but even with my musical background, I was grinding my way through this one.The climax was an interesting revelation, but there's so much sad news within the main character's life among those closest to her that I was left with a morose feeling about the novel. The final brief chapter- aptly named "Coda" - takes place about a year later and provides the discovery that things have seemingly worked out - somehow. It might have been nice to have let it play out for another 100 pages to discover exactly what transpired as this one ran less than 300 pages. As creative and clever as this novel is, it could have been so much more.

  • Chelsea
    2018-10-19 02:12

    When Suzanne Sullivan learns of her lover Alex's death over the radio, it takes every ounce of willpower to continue making dinner for her family without letting on that something is out of the ordinary. Within a couple of weeks, she is contacted by Alex's wife Olivia, who demands she finish the musical composition her late husband was writing when he was having his affair with her. This proves to be a difficult task, one Suzanne has to complete while simultaneously tending to both her unhappy marriage and her best friend's sensitive needs. And what she discovers along the way may pose more questions than answer them.AN UNFINISHED SCORE is rich with musical history and theories (including how you can read a person through the music they write). Blackwell writes with flowing, poetic prose that will grab you and drop you smack in the middle of Suzanne's sad emotions. The story is one of heavy burden- the reader will have their own strong opinion of what is right and wrong and yet will still find themselves rooting for Suzanne throughout her decisions. The last 60 pages in particular kept me up into the wee hours of the morning!

  • Lev Raphael
    2018-09-23 06:26

    I love classical music, especially chamber music, so this book was a delightful backstage pass. What's it like to practice such music, to live under its spell, to wrestle with it, to let it into your life, to live and breathe it, and to try to make money from it as well? Grounded in the reality of a chamber group, the novel explores adultery, creativity, and secrets in a hypnotic voice. This one filled my weekend and I put everything aside to finish it. Now, if you're a mystery author as I am, or read mysteries, that aspect of the story might be too easy for you to figure out, but it won't spoil the journey.

  • Michelle
    2018-10-18 03:16

    A woman is having an affair. she also happens to be a musician in a quartet. Her lover died in a plane crash. Maybe it's the time I'm reading it in, but I can't stomach the somber tone of this woman's suffering.From her strange living arrangement's with her husband, best friend and her friend's young deaf daughter, to her agonizingover her failing marriage and lack of children. After 6 chapters I decided itv just isn't something I want to read.

  • Daniel
    2018-10-12 06:21

    This was a touching work of fiction. It actually brought tears to my eyes near the end. The musical references were interesting, and the depictions of each character's relationship to music seemed honest and soulful. It reminded me in many ways of the movie "Unfaithful" with Richard Gere and Diane Lane. I loved it.

  • Jennifer
    2018-09-29 09:06

    Every word of this exquisite novel was chosen and placed with the precision and care of the protagonist's composed music notes. One of the best novels I've ever read: storyline, character development, all-around writing style. Brava.

  • Sonya
    2018-10-10 05:14

    Riveting meditation on how one can interpret creative output (in the case of this novel, the musical composition) to gain insight about the nature of a personality. It made me wish I knew more about the world of classical music.

  • Lisa
    2018-09-25 06:19

    I wanted to love this one and if I could I'd give it a 3.5. I just felt like there was too much going on, particularly in the first half of the book for me to attach to any of the characters. The writing is wonderful and the second half really picks up.

  • Kalen
    2018-10-13 03:33

    I really wish my reviews would quit disappearing. Short version: a beautiful and sad book that will grab you in the opening pages and not let you go. My only regret is that I know so little about classical music--I'm certain I missed a lot of subtleties in Blackwell's prose.

  • Nikola
    2018-10-21 03:09

    Elise Blackwell's fourth novel is a slow, contemplative read that manages to penetrate the very basic of our thoughts and ideas with her sharp prose. Click to read the full review on my book blog.

  • Judy
    2018-10-01 06:31

    Loved this novel and the manner in which music was interwoven with the story. I think musicians will especially enjoy this book.

  • Rick
    2018-10-15 01:15

    Loved it and emailed the author to tell her so. She wrote me back, how cool.

  • Sam Slaughter
    2018-10-02 06:05

    This is not a book that I would consider in my wheelhouse, but when it is undeniably good. The prose is fluid and beautiful while also allowing readers a brief yet fine education in classical music

  • Laura
    2018-10-13 05:32

    Another 3.75. It needs a little something more to get it all the way.

  • Jami Donley
    2018-10-16 04:12

    Very compelling. So much interesting info about music and musicians. Really a good read.

  • Michael Mcnichols
    2018-10-13 06:21

    Hard to follow for people not into music.

  • Libraryscat
    2018-10-11 02:20

    An absolutely beautifully written and emoted book! My review is available here.