…the book he did not expect to write…which takes its place among his finest work. The Melody is to make these chimes of domesticity, warmth and plenty sound in a mobile, infinitely changeable relationship to that other metallic sound, the crashing of the bins. Crace is a polemical writer, but his writing is too subtly strange to feel like preaching. Crace builds his own laboratories, where he is free to bring his elements of interest into new configurations…with incantatory linguistic power.
On the morning I read Jim Crace's new novel The Melody, I was in our living room when I heard them: bells. Chiming over and over again, from I knew not where. It felt as if the book itself had created an atmosphere around me, as if I'd entered its world involuntarily — and I wasn't surprised ... Crace as author owns wiles far ahead of any reader's ... We might be rich or poor, young or old, fast or slow—but we each have a voice. To what end do we use it? The possibilities are haunting, and so is Crace's message, around which he has invented an entire world: We are only as meaningful as the help we give to others.
Jim Crace captures more concretely than perhaps any other writer the permanence of absence, Crace’s novels are nothing so straightforward as allegory; we are offered no takeaway messages or pat moralities.
A book at once full of wry humour and achingly sad, The Melody is every bit as strange, otherworldly, and finely wrought as readers have come to expect of Crace. This is a fine contribution to the oeuvre of perhaps the most underrated novelist writing in English today.
As ever, Crace doesn’t let us develop a simple picture of where or when this is happening. It isn’t just that he withholds detail; his tricky use of tense and mood makes temporal uncertainty intrinsic ... For all that this sort of thing keeps you on your toes, The Melody sometimes threatens to become (almost literally) a shaggy dog story, with the novel’s central conflict between profit and justice settled offstage rather than in the hinted-at grandstand finish. Yet the book retains a lingering power—not least in Crace’s gentle reminder that, although the personal may well be political, it’s often easier to pretend otherwise.
...extraordinary ... Crace seeks and finds the genuine ... It’s a plot that allows Crace to explore the devastating consequences of poverty’s losing battle with profit ... The Melody is an elegiac ode of its own that confronts the evanescence of life ... In underscoring Crace’s genuineness, the novel champions the benefits of friendship and community in the face of inexorable progress and change.
...[a] haunting and transfixing novel ... Like the simple but subtle song from which the novel takes its title, the novel’s effects linger, coloring the reader’s feelings about the thin border between the natural world and human society.