Wednesday 11 May 2022

Book Review: Ghost Music by An Yu (Contemporary Fiction)

Title: Ghost Music
Author: An Yu
Publisher: Grove Atlantic
Publication Date: 10 January 2023
Pages: 238
Format: eBook - PDF
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: ARC via NetGalley

For three years, Song Yan has filled the emptiness of her Beijing apartment with the tentative notes of her young piano students. She gave up on her own career as a concert pianist many years ago, but her husband Bowen, an executive at a car company, has long rebuffed her pleas to have a child. He resists even when his mother arrives from the southwestern Chinese region of Yunnan and begins her own campaign for a grandchild. As tension in the household rises, it becomes harder for Song Yan to keep her usual placid demeanor, especially since she is troubled by dreams of a doorless room she can’t escape, populated only by a strange orange mushroom.

When a parcel of mushrooms native to her mother-in-law’s province is delivered seemingly by mistake, Song Yan sees an opportunity to bond with her, and as the packages continue to arrive every week, the women stir-fry and grill the mushrooms, adding them to soups and noodles. When a letter arrives in the mail from the sender of the mushrooms, Song Yan’s world begins to tilt further into the surreal. Summoned to an uncanny, seemingly ageless house hidden in a hutong that sits in the middle of the congested city, she finds Bai Yu, a once world-famous pianist who disappeared ten years ago.


Ghost Music was a surreal dream of a book, the beautiful prose weaving a path from one part of the story to the next much like a piece of music leading from one movement to another. There is a plot, but many of its points are left unresolved at the end, as the point is more about the journey. Song Yan was a character I connected with right from the start, and it was a delight to follow her throughout the novel as she assessed her life and feelings through the various revelations that came to light about those around her, interspersed with her strange interactions with the orange mushrooms. This was the kind of story you sink into at the moment of reading but then dwell on in more depth after you've put the book down. I loved every minute of reading it and would definitely pick up another book by An Yu in the future. It gets five stars from me.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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