by Helen Humphreys
A nocturne is a musical composition, inspired by or evocative of the night. In its most familiar form, it is a single-movement character piece written for solo piano. With that description, it’s not difficult to see how fitting the title for Helen Humphreys’ memoir truly is, both channelling the spirit of the story, as well as its subject.
The ebb and flow between Humphreys’ disjointed memories regarding her brother is almost musical in its own right. Despite the vivid pictures the author paints, I often found myself chuckling at her brusque comments accompanying the descriptions, then wound up almost in tears at the sheer sadness the author was able to evoke during Martin’s last moments. The true testament to the author was her ability to keep the story moving forward so fluidly while jumping to different points in her life and flipping between extremes in emotion.
Martin himself was a living, breathing musical composition. Clearly inspired by the night, where he found himself most creative, the accomplished pianist was far too optimistic to be defined by the sadness surrounding his tragic death. Through Martin, the author not only shows the literal woe of a man taken at such a young age, but also how we find ourselves unable to shake free of the responsibilities of our lives to do what we really want, even at the end.
Eloquent and poignant, I highly recommend Nocturne to everyone. The only criticism I can really garner is that it doesn’t do anything surprising. That being said, it doesn’t do anything surprising very well.