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If I had not kissed anyone, or danced with anyone, or had a reason to cry, the music made me feel as if I had gone through all that anyway . . . the music attracted and repelled, organised and disturbed and then let us into the night, clusters of emotion ready to dissolve into sleep.
In The Importance of Music to Girls, Lavinia Greenlaw tells the story of the adventures that music leads us into: getting drunk, falling in love, dying of boredom, cutting our hair, terrifying our parents, wanting to change the world. This is a vivid memoir unlike any other, recalling the furious passion of being young, female, and coming alive through music.
Lavinia Greenlaw was born in London where she has lived for most of her life. She studied seventeenth-century art at the Courtauld Institute, and was awarded a NESTA fellowship to pursue her interest in vision, travel and perception.
Her poetry includes Minsk, which was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot, Forward and Whitbread Poetry Prizes. She has also published novels and works of non-fiction which include The Importance of Music to Girls and Questions of Travel: William Morris in Iceland. She has won a number of prizes and held residencies at the Science Museum and the Royal Society of Medicine.
Her work for BBC radio includes programmes about the Arctic, the Baltic, Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Bishop.
Despite the title, this is not a girlie book, but a poetic, evocative exploration of music and identity. Greenlaw's preferences range from Bob Dylan to Joy Division, her prose has a sharp honesty and she wields her erudition lightly.
It is the candour of this off-beat memoir that makes it stand out. There is no guff about the transcendental power of music: more a wry reflection on the way in which music weaves its way in and out of childhood.
Greenlaw's unflinching eye and spare, sophisticated prose render a rare and quite beautiful book.