Review: Music Of The Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

Leaving the safety of America, Teera returns to Cambodia for the first time since her harrowing escape as a child refugee. She carries a letter from a man who mysteriously signs himself as “the Old Musician” and claims to have known her father in the Khmer Rouge prison where he disappeared twenty-five years ago.

In Phnom Penh, Teera finds a society still in turmoil, where perpetrators and survivors of unfathomable violence live side by side, striving to mend their still beloved country. She meets a young doctor who begins to open her heart, immerses herself in long-buried memories and prepares to learn her father’s fate.

Meanwhile, the Old Musician, who earns his modest keep playing ceremonial music at a temple, awaits Teera’s visit with great trepidation. He will have to confess the bonds he shared with her parents, the passion with which they all embraced the Khmer Rouge’s illusory promise of a democratic society, and the truth about her father’s end.

A love story for things lost and things restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness, Music of the Ghosts is an unforgettable journey through the embattled geography of the heart and its hidden chambers where love can be reborn.


Song For This Book: I Will Remember You by Sarah McLachlan
Why? Memory plays a huge role in this book.


I received a copy of this book from Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review.

When I read the synopsis for this book, I was immediately intrigued by this book. The story intertwines Suteera, the Old Magician, and Cambodia, and the way music fit into the story was fascinating. So when I had the chance to get an ARC, I jumped at the chance. I was so excited to see where this book was going.

But when I dove into the book, I started struggling. The book started out well enough, but I started losing steam around thirty pages in. By the time I made it to page fifty, I was only reading the first sentence of each paragraph. By page eighty, I had given up. While the story seemed interesting, I was so bored that I couldn’t bring myself to read another line.

This review is probably a bit shorter than usual, because of how little I read, but I’ll strive to be as accurate as possible.

The Good Points of Music Of The Ghosts:

The characters in this book are fantastic. The grief, the guilt, and the struggle of the characters comes across so well, and they are so distinct from the very first page. They don’t require much development, because they were so solid right from the beginning.

The writing in this book is beautiful. Ratner has a gift with words, and the way she weaves together her sentences is fantastic. The story she’s writing is scary, difficult thing, but the way her words come together make it easier to understand and to manage.

There are probably many more good points about this book, but because I was not able to make it very far in the book.

The Downsides of Music Of The Ghosts:

While the writing was very beautiful, it seemed like nothing was happening. There was a lot of history, which was great, but there was a lot of thoughts and detours as well. In an entire chapter from the Old Musician, you might find out one thing, completely unrelated to the plot, that happened at the temple. In the eighty pages I read, about 10 pages worth of plot actually took place. I know there’s a lot of history and mental states to include, but more should have happened. This is probably the slowest paced book I have ever read.

All in all, this book wasn’t for me. But as I look up other reviews of my book, I see that I’m the minority by far, so take what I say as you well. The writing is beautiful, and the characters are fantastic, but the pace is brutally slow. I still love the concept of the book and all the ideas taking place, I just could push through this one. If you love beautiful writing, well developed characters, and have an interest in Cambodian history, you’ll likely love this book, as many others do.

Find Music Of The Ghosts on Book Depository

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