Spare, lucid, profound... A resonating novel of love, music and freedom with many moments of humor, wisdom, and awe

Isabel Mellado’s debut novel Vibrato gives us a vivid account of the internal world of a quirky violinist, Clara, an astute observer of both the mundane and the inexplicable. Ranging deeply over her speechless childhood during the military junta, her life as an exiled classical musician in Berlin —facing the hardships of touring and permanent competition—, to her delicious dissections of the pitfalls of love and marriage, it is an elegant, candid meditation on the fraught journey to self-knowledge suffused with fierce intelligence, generous humanity and razor-sharp insights.

Her style is fragmented, each anecdote as luminous, self-contained and full of unexpected pleasures at every turn. There’s surreal humor and a gorgeous, engulfing language, weaving musical metaphors with a disciplined, extended prose. Mellado excels portraying idiosyncratic characters, including Gerundia, Clara’s peculiar confident, a human skull which probably was her father’s mistress’—; her friend Ulrike, who convinces her to live with her in a squat in Berlin 1980’s countercultural scene, or Hans Pappe, her unpierceable, music-critic husband who smells “like a raw potato” and with whom she struggles to build deep intimacy: “The more we learned each other’s language, the more isolated and confined we became”.

A tender, vulnerable book with a fierce strength and intelligence at its core, from a captivating writer who has found her own voice —a controlled vibrato, slightly out of tune in the best way possible.

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“A feast of talent”

— Andrés Neuman

Kalpa Literary Agency

“Wise and deeply beautiful; like a stone breaking the sound barrier”

— Yuri Herrera

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“I’m going to miss this world as soon as I close the book”

— Samanta Schweblin

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“An extraordinary writer”

— Fernando Aramburu


Isabel Mellado


Easily flowing between the exploration of the literary possibilities of musical language, to the professional practice of classical violin, Isabel Mellado is one of the most original contemporary fiction writers from Chile. 

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