About the book
Trumpet is the debut novel by Scottish author and poet Jackie Kay. The book was originally published in 1998 although this edition comes from Picador, 4th March 2011. The book is 200 pages long.
The death of legendary jazz trumpeter Joss Moody exposes an extraordinary secret, one that enrages his adopted son, Colman, leading him to collude with a tabloid journalist. Besieged by the press, his widow Millie flees to a remote Scottish village, where she seeks solace in memories of their marriage. The reminiscences of those who knew Joss Moody render a moving portrait of a shared life founded on an intricate lie, one that preserved a rare, unconditional love.
What I thought
Trumpet is a book that is on my reading list for my Gender and Sexuality class for next year. I’m trying to get a head start on my reading list as I left everything until last minute for the previous two years and that hasn’t worked well at all.
Trumpet begins with quite a shock. A woman is hiding away from journalists who want to know more about the death of her husband, Joss Moody. He was a famous trumpet player and he had a secret. Millie knew her husband’s secret all along but no one else did. It was something that they both kept from the world. Joss Moody was actually a woman and dressed and acted as a man for most of his life. The book starts with a very strong sense of grief, especially as Millie is struggling so much without her husband. It really saddened me to see her struggle in such a way and for the journalists to not leave her alone. I wanted to bang on the window and tell them to F Off!
The whole book isn’t told from the view of Millie Moody though. We also get to hear from Joss’s son, Coleman, an author who is trying to write a book about Joss and various friends and family members. While the change of voice was quite strange at times, it helped me to understand Joss as a person much better. The only person who truly understood Joss was his wife so through these other characters, their confusion, anger and sadness explored. Coleman especially had such a strong voice because of how angry he was when he found out the truth about his father. I loved reading his chapters and seeing how his reactions changed.
Obviously, as well as tackling the subject of grief, Trumpet is mainly about gender and identity. I wished that we could have heard from Joss himself, to have gotten to know what his life was like. However, I think that the other character’s thoughts did the situation justice when it came to not understanding something different. Jackie Kay really hits the nail on the head when she talks about people not accepting things they don’t understand. Because of this, it again made me feel sad for Millie as she had no one to talk to or to help her get through the grief.
Due to the subject of this book, there is bad language and a couple of slightly graphic scenes so it is not for younger readers. The language is used in exactly the right places though and only enhances the story. The language used at times helped to make certain character’s anger and confusion and more prominent. I don’t always think bad language in books in necessary but in this case, I think it was needed.
I really enjoyed reading Trumpet. It opened my eyes to something I hardly know anything about and it was also a very entertaining read.