Book Review – Bittersweet Symphony by Rebecca McNutt

Bittersweet Symphony

★★★★★ 5 Stars

Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Horror
Publication Date: September 11th, 2017
Publisher: Independent

” ‘Cause it’s a bittersweet symphony, this life. Trying to make ends meet, you’re a slave to money then you die.” – The Verve, “Bittersweet Symphony”

Bittersweet Symphony is just that – the first movement one of poignant but painful human trauma, with an intermezzo of creepy preternatural conspiracy, and a finale of absolution.

Freeing yourself from your past is one of the most daunting tasks that one can take on. We all have little skeletons that cling to us like helpless, jealous babies, constantly flinging our failures in our face and drowning out any pride that may lead us somewhere happier. Sometimes they are real skeletons buried somewhere but somehow still following us home every night.

“We who have inherited mankind’s death throes, must be accepting of the death sentence we have given to our children.”

Bittersweet Symphony takes place in New York during the years after 9/11, and revolves around an ad executive, Tony Barone, and his lawyer, Bailey Kane, who take on the task of trying to turn an infamous office building into a suitable, inexpensive office for his company. The area around the office seems “off” and unnaturally bleak, and the building itself was the site of many horrific accidents that have left a permanent bloody smear on its reputation.

Symphony is both classy and quirky – it reminds me at times of a cross between the films Bartleby and The Shining, a colourful cast in the midst of both human and supernatural disturbance.

The whole cast is well-developed (extra props for Tony and Bailey though), eking their way out of damaged lives, trying to make things right, even if it doesn’t always mean doing the sensible thing. Commercial greed will not get the better of them.

It was difficult for me to break up with Bittersweet Symphony after totally cannibalizing the poor book in about a day, one of my favourites in a string of books about psychological hauntings I seem to be craving lately, but it’s inevitable!
The aftermath of 9/11 and emotional trauma are dealt with really tastefully as well. I actually remember seeing 9/11 on the news when it occurred. I was kind of young to really grasp what was happening, but the memory of seeing it is as ripe as if it had happened seventeen days ago, rather than seventeen years. It quickly deflates my patience, too, when people write it off as a ‘conspiracy’ or use it as an arguing point to show which political party is better. It’s just disgraceful and callous when it’s still affecting people directly – victims’ relatives, survivors, witnesses – and I’m really appreciative of how it was used in the story.

Thanks to the author for trading this book with me in exchange for an honest review! 🙂

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