...riveting ... Boyd has written a novel that manages to be expansive and intimate, potent and poignant. It confidently sprawls across Europe while cunningly tapping into Scottish literature and folklore. It keeps us rapt and emotionally invested. Once again, this maestro hits all the right notes.
This is a 'play it again, Sam' kind of production, the novelistic equivalent of the showy orchestral chestnut 'Pines of Rome.' Love Is Blind goes down easy, its pleasures are vaguely guilty, and upon setting it down, it swiftly vanishes from the mind ... But there’s no philosophical armature to Love Is Blind, only the most convoluted of bildungsromans ... There are halfhearted efforts to place the plot vividly in its time ... the book’s promise of eroticism ends up involving only some risible sex writing ... it’s depressing that he [Boyd] thought that classical music would be the perfectly complementary subject matter, as lovably hoary as the narrative style he is pantomiming. In any case, however, there are only flickers of the charm you would want to steadily emanate from such a period production. Love Is Blind eventually reminded me of a tired revival of one of Franco Zeffirelli’s decades-old, hyper-naturalistic stagings for the Metropolitan Opera: all surface detail, no life.
The novel opens in 1894 with the 24-year-old Brodie working at Channon’s piano shop in Edinburgh...Brodie’s entrepreneurial flair is soon recognized by the head of the company, who sends him to run their Paris branch and expand their business there...Brodie meets Lydia Blum, a Russian soprano destined to be the love of his life, although their affair results in them going on the run in fear of their lives ... Boyd writes these passages superbly, so that even if you know nothing about pianos they are still fascinating ... The novel teems with extraneous characters and details—visits to prostitutes, an alcoholic brother, a young rich Russian bohemian intellectual. Few of them are necessary to the narrative, but all add to its compelling realism.