Trio exhibits all Sue Gee's* hallmarks - an unhurried narrative, measured handling of material, particularly of the story's emotional substrate, a calmness and restraint in plotting, beautifully drawn characters, and a feel for place such that she could be called a landscape artist with words.
Trio is set in Northumberland in the late 1930s where Steven Coulter, a young history teacher, loses his wife to tuberculosis. Finding solace in his work, Steven is helped through his grief by his friendship with his colleague Frank whose cellist sister Diana is a member of a trio. As, for the first time, Steven experiences the expressive power of music, its ability to transport and to heal, so he becomes close to the musicians - Diana, Margot and George - and enters their world of country houses, shared history, and repressed emotion. When one of the friends breaks the charmed circle to follow a path they can, in conscience, no longer avoid, everything changes for all of them.
I'm always drawn to books which feature music**, as a knowledgeable and sensitive treatment of the subject provides a rich extra dimension, and this one incorporates it seamlessly and perfectly. Done with care, integrity and balance, the musical element both enhances the novel itself and leads the reader to find recordings and listen closely to the specific pieces described - a bonus, to my mind.
But as I've said above there's so much more than that to Trio, and I can't recommend it too highly. Sue Gee is a writer of clarity and quality, a Bawden or Ravilious, a Reynolds Stone or Clare Leighton of prose, and reading her work is pure pleasure.
* There are links to posts on some of her other novels here.