This novel feels like practice, but in a good way. I don't play an instrument, but I listened to my sister and her fiddle a great deal growing up: the saw-saw of the same music over and over, a new note here and there, then tearing off into something new, a piece of music heard at the session, something old, all mixed up with the thump-thump of her feet as she paced. Practice separates the competent from the excellent. There's nothing for it but to do it. Joking to the contrary, I still love the sound of people practicing their fiddles.
The novel takes place in the aftermath of a coup. The setting is deliberately ambiguous and the characters unnamed, referred to by vocation: chef, portraitist, barber. The first half introduces us to the men, the second half their women. The prose is literary, writerly, well-crafted, polished. It's not especially moving, like granite counter tops. It gleams, but use the cutting board to chop stuff. It's practice, and I'd like to hear what happens next.