Review: A Note of Madness by Tabitha Suzuma

Publication Date: February 15th, 2007
Format: Hardcover, 301 pages
RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars
Life as a student is good for Flynn. As one of the top pianists at the Royal College of Music, he has been put forward for an important concert, the opportunity of a lifetime. But beneath the surface, things are changing. On a good day, he feels full of energy and life, but on a bad day being alive is worse than being dead. Sometimes he wants to compose and practise all night, at other times he can’t get out of bed. His flatmate Harry tries to understand but is increasingly confused by Flynn’s erratic mood swings. His friend Jennah tries to help, but Flynn finds it difficult to be around her as he struggles to control his feelings and behaviour. With the pressure of the forthcoming concert and the growing concern of his family and friends, emotions come to a head. Sometimes things can only get worse before they get better.

Have you ever wondered how madness begin? Is it really just a chemical imbalance that a mere prescribed pill can stave off? Since he was four years old, Flynn had always known music is in his future. Some could consider him as a virtuoso – but that’s not how he sees himself. His days are a cycle of crippling depression and brilliant music composition. When he was chosen to play at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall, pressure builds to an explosive point as he struggles to keep his insanity away.

Reading Flynn’s descent to madness was interesting. Tabitha Suzuma seemed to be well acquainted, clinically and emotionally with what happens to a person suffering from having a bipolar disease. She’s able to paint a pretty visceral picture of the steady decline of Flynn’s mind. The suffocating need to burst into tears, the intermittent mood swings and the constant second-guessing of what’s real and what’s imagined. No. Flynn did not suffer any delusions brought on by his madness. What I meant was that he constantly questioned the authenticity of his musical brilliance – because some days, he couldn’t even decipher a single note and on a good day, he could compose a whole opera. It was heartbreaking to see such a gifted mind go to waste.

My only problem, and keep in mind that this is a personal problem, is that there happened to be a disconnection between the character and his actual emotions. I say this is a personal problem simply because I’m not a fan of third person POV. I always find it impersonal and cold. I wanted to feel whatever it was he was feeling but couldn’t because being told of what he was going through is entirely different from being “one” with Flynn. The same goes when Flynn’s on a high. I can easily picture him on hyper-speed but I didn’t feel the heart-pounding adrenaline that goes along with it. Unfortunate, really because a book with this theme requires the reader’s fully vested emotions for an even better reading experience.

Tabitha Suzuma is an author whose books are something that I’ve always been intimidated to read. This was sort of a baptism of fire for me. I was hoping it would ease me into reading more of her works because rumour has it that hers are not for the faint of heart. And in a way, I’m glad that I picked this one. Please don’t misunderstand; I think this book would still put any reader (other than me) through the wringer. If Forbidden was written in the same fashion, then perhaps it won’t be so bad. But somehow, I highly doubt that there’s enough heart breaking books that could prepare me for her more well-known work. I’ve had this book on my shelves since it came out but I’m just too cowardice to dive in.

All in all, this book was a great introduction to Suzuma’s works. It eased my discomfiture some…but I think I’m going to have to psych myself a bit more to pick up Forbidden next.