I’ve just finished a rather special novel. It was written by Jackie Kay who is a poet and writer who lives in Manchester. The novel was dedicated to fellow Manc poet and the current Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy.
The book is special for a number of reasons, firstly it was awarded the Guardian Fiction Prize in 1998, secondly it was Kay’s first novel and thirdly it is the tale of a Jazz Trumpeter, Joss Moore, player who has died and the world has found out that he lived his life as a man, when in fact he was a woman.
Although the subject matter is extraordinary and something you’d expect Channel Four to cover on a Dispatches documentary it is treated with dignity and delicately by Kay’s words. It is the subject matter that will keep you gripped to the story but not the element you’ll remember when you finish.
The story is written from the perspectives of a few different characters, but mainly Joss Moore’s widow, adopted son and the journalist wanting to turn Moore’s life-story into a book. Each has a different perspective on Joss Moore, a different way of finding out about Joss’s past and a different element to bring the story. My favourite reads were those of the accounts from Joss’s widow. Kay dealt with her grief like no other writer I’ve read. It was both deeply sad and honest without being cliched. Her grief bled into the pages, I felt her sense of loss whilst reading.
Trumpet touches on many topics which make the novel a compelling and political read, from discussion on race (both Joss and his son, Colman, are black) to sexuality and gender, sexual identity and taboo. But Kay’s biggest triumph with this complex novel is her ability to make it believable and honest.
Buy a copy of Trumpet here or borrow from your local Library.