Review – The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt by Tracey Farr

When was the last time you read a book about an 80 year old bisexual heroin addict? Never? Well this book is about exactly that, except, none of those aspects are actually focused on that heavily because it’s just what Lena Gaunt is, it’s not a story about anything more than a life and all the experiences that encompass that. It’s written as close to an autobiography that fiction can be, travelling through Lena’s life as the first Theremin player of the twentieth century. Her story is being told in 1991 to a film maker who manages to persuade Lena to talk about her life, which she does in a very closed off way, never giving much away.

Lena starts off life in Singapore before, at the age of 4, being sent to a boarding school in Perth where she discovers her love of music and a talent for the cello. It’s in Sydney where she discovers the Theremin, the buzz of an artist’s life as well as the lovers that the title refers to. Tracey Farr is a wonderful story teller, taking the reader on a gentle meander then dropping in a snippet of information that you might miss if you don’t pay attention but her descriptions and imaginary are sublime. The subject matter isn’t something that particularly interested me until I read this book, I’d never heard of a Theremin before (it’s an early electronic instrument controlled without physical contact, it’s incredible to see being played) and I wasn’t overly keen on the idea of reading a fictional autobiography but I thoroughly enjoyed this, Lena managed to get under my skin and I couldn’t put it down until I knew what happened to her.

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