School of Velocity is a novel about music, about self-doubt, about mental health, and about friendship. Jan is a virtuoso pianist, always practising, the book starts with him accompanying a cellist in a foreign country, but the concert doesn’t go as planned. He can barely remember the music, misses a few cues, and leaves in disgrace.
As he comes to terms with this disaster, and the implications that it may have on his future career, he remembers Dirk, and old school friend, with a magnetic personality, and popularity to burn, and as Dirk’s personality and popularity rubs of on Jan, he finds his life changed by being allowed into certain circles within the school clique system. But the friendship is dangerous, and toxic with Dirk daring Jan to take on more and more dangerous risks, and after they leave school, the friendship falters.
They meet up again in later life, but things have changed between them. Jan is the successful one, making good on the promise he showed in his youth, but they are both also aware that their friendship was a normal friendship. It was more than that, bordering on love, or on obsession, and as Jan takes one last risk to try to impress Dirk, we know that neither of them will find the full resolution that they need.
This is a fine novel, from a debut novelist, with plenty to say. The friendship between the two protagonists is well drawn, and while neither of them is particularly sympathetic, it is a believable relationship, and the story moves along at quite a smart pace, whilst secondary characters are well drawn, including the girls that Jan repeatedly loses to Dirk, or their family members. Eric Beck Rubin has also done his research into the piano repertoire, and describing the life of musicians in the highest standards of the classical music world.