COMPOSERS: Min Kym
LABELS: Penguin Viking
ALBUM TITLE: Gone
PERFORMER: Min Kym
CATALOGUE NO: ISBN 978-0-241-26315-0 (hb)
Here’s the story of a real-life Gone Girl. When opportunistic thieves stole Min Kym’s £1.2 million Stradivarius in Euston Station in 2010, it wasn’t only the instrument’s insurers who gulped. The 31-year-old Korean violinist was devastated and fell into depression, unable to get up and unable to play: ‘It’s Gone! It’s Gone! But more than that… I’ve Gone too’. Slowly, she is now finding her voice again and coming to terms with a complex pyschological past. For all the thriller-like marketing and sometimes overly-staccato, melodramatic style, this is a pacy and memorable first-hand account of what it means to be a child prodigy.
Kym was undoubtedly that: she picked up the violin at six, a year later became the youngest-ever pupil at the Purcell School of Music, gave her professional concerto debut at 13… the list goes on. Music has long been her language and her life, the violin her true voice. She writes about pieces of music, composers and violinists with warmth and reverence that made me want to hear her play them (a companion CD is being released).
Yet this vast talent came with a price tag. Kym spells out the child prodigy’s lot: ‘We are cuckoos in the nest, oddities, freaks’. A photo of her as a child is not simply that: ‘It’s a picture of expectation.’ What that image doesn’t reveal is the many instances of exploitation – the teacher who takes a 13-year-old Kym on holiday, for instance, and then refuses to let her call her mother when he crashes the car and her cheekbone is fractured – or the fierce discipline needed to turn a prodigy into a fully-fledged pro. The emotional toll is sometimes underplayed: it’s near the book’s end that she mentions the anorexia of her teenage years. In her twenties, there’s a controlling boyfriend who undermines Kym and it’s when she ignores her gut instinct never to leave her valuable violin, on his insistence, that the theft takes place. The ins and outs of what happens next are best left to Kym, and although there are themes that could have been fruitfully further explored, you’ll find it hard not to be uplifted by the heartfelt concluding notes of hope.