Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The Music Shop

Book Review -

The Music Shop 
Author: Rachel Joyce
Publisher: Doubleday (13 July 2017)
Language: English
An Adult Fictional Book
ISBN 978-0857521927


It's 1988, a time when Britain's industrial past first started to disappear from the landscape. Peoples' jobs and social positioning were changing; resulting in changed emphasis in regard to lifestyle, focus and interest. Some took the baton and ran with it, while others held things more preciously; were defensive and were not always best placed to do the same. Turning to fiction now, and Music shop owner, Frank and his fellow traders/service providers on Union Street would fall under the latter if they were for real.

Frank has great appreciation and a good ear for music of all genres which he loves to pass on and to make people feel better. Nonetheless, his love of the vinyl record and his insistence to sell from his shop music in this format only meant his passion and livelihood was somewhat doomed because: 'Lots of people threw away their records. In 1988 all we wanted were CDs'.

The story is not just about Frank's nostalgic and sometimes sad personal past, there is a main plot story thread, a love interest, but 
Frank needs to be less stubborn and drop his guard and it is not going to be an easy ride to do it.


I admire the intelligence in the writing and the attention Joyce has paid to portray the rational and sometimes irrational thinking of Frank and that of the people in his past (Peg and Deb), as well as his small world present (I'll not name check them all) but I mean the shopkeepers; the tattooist; the undertakers; the waitress, Father Anthony etc.

Joyce is successful in giving identifiable personalities to all her characters. She is people observant in her writing and allows us to perceive a sense of time and place that falls within living memory, she does this sympathetically and engagingly. 

Any rise in the otherwise gentle storytelling tone involves the character, Ilse Brauchmann. This character is both the conflict of mind and a distraction for Frank, causing him equal angst with having to accept the fact the demand for vinyl records has bottomed out.

Yet, with the rise again in popularity of vinyl records in recent years, I think it is an interesting theme for a book and a well timed release. 
I am sure Joyce's intention however, was to be more clever in having those music mentions stir people curiosity to visit YouTube or to download tunes and classical pieces, but for anyone like me with a memory for various artists and a broad music taste nothing stuck in my mind particularly, apart from the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah; (if you read the book you'll know why I say this).

I do, however, think this story is a little gem! Yes, I question whether or not the move to introduce each chapter with a well known song title adds anything at all, and that toward the end it all gets a bit nonsensical; but the text is highly navigable. That doesn't mean that I skipped through it, no, actually, I read every word and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Debra Hall

Paperback publication - 22 March 2018

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