In an interview about her participation in the Westside Connections concert on March 7, author Jane Hamilton made the following comment, “I’ll talk first, before the Golijov piece, and then again before the Brahms Sextet . . . possible topics: music, story, obsession, the creative process . . . I got caught up in the story of Brahms’ fiancee, Agathe von Siebold, and what it is to be the obsession which fuels the art. (This is different, I think, from being a Muse.) So, I’m planning to speak as Agathe. Or rather, the reincarnation of Agathe . . .”

It immediately catapulted me back to the summer when I read Hamilton’s novel, A Map of the WorldEntertainment Weekly described it as “an enthralling tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying way our lives can spin out of control.”

The book is divided into three sections, titled “Alice” (chapters 1 – 8), “Howard” (chapters 9 – 16) and then “Alice” again (chapters 17 – 22.) I was sucked into the characters, drawn deeper and deeper first into the mind of Alice Goodwin, the wife struggling to cope with her two young daughters Emma and Claire; then into the mind of Howard, the husband whose dream of raising his family on his small dairy farm is turned upside down by an accident central to the story; and then back to being in the head of Alice. I found my own thoughts swirling around in ever-darkening waters. It was chilling, uncomfortable -– and yet I could not tear myself away. “Ms. Hamilton has done a nimble job of showing us how precarious the illusion of safety and security really is,” said The New York Times. I concur.

I don’t want to reveal any more about the book – that’s a journey you must take on your own – but I am intrigued to hear a writer capable of weaving a tale as engrossing as A Map of the World speak on obsession, and to do that in the context of the programmed works by Osvaldo Golijov and Brahms.

I’ll be all ears on Thursday night at The Broad Stage.

Orchestral Series

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Margaret Batjer curator

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