Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Nothing Else by Louise Beech. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Orenda Books for my digital review copy. Do check out the posts by my tour buddies for today, Jo at JaffaReadsToo and book blogger Intensive Gassing About Books.
About the Book
Heather Harris is a piano teacher and professional musician, whose quiet life revolves around music, whose memories centre on a single song that haunts her. A song she longs to perform again. A song she wrote as a child, to drown out the violence in their home. A song she played with her little sister, Harriet.
But Harriet is gone … she disappeared when their parents died, and Heather never saw her again.
When Heather is offered an opportunity to play piano on a cruise ship, she leaps at the chance. She’ll read her recently released childhood care records by day – searching for clues to her sister’s disappearance – and play piano by night … coming to terms with the truth about a past she’s done everything to forget.
Format: Paperback (352 pages) Publisher: Orenda Books
Publication date: 23rd June 2022 Genre: Contemporary Fiction
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Having enjoyed many of Louise Beech’s previous novels – Maria in the Moon, Call Me Star Girl, I Am Dust and This Is How We Are Human – I think I can say a consistent theme of her books is the insightful exploration of relationships and her ability to take the reader on an emotional journey. Nothing Else is another interesting variation on this theme. (I’m going to apologise now for all the musical metaphors in this review.)
Heather’s decision to embark on a determined search for Harriet after so many years is not prompted by a pivotal event in her life but by a chance encounter and perhaps a general sense of dissatisfaction with her life, a feeling that she is drifting and there are ghosts of the past she needs to lay to rest. In particular, she nurses a sense of guilt that she failed to protect Harriet in the way an elder sister should.
The atmosphere of a modern cruise ship which is more like a floating hotel didn’t feel like an obvious place for Heather, although I can see it would appeal to someone seeking a sense of adventure. I did like how we see the power of music not only to entertain but to provoke memories, such as the lovely scene involving an elderly couple. (A neat touch is the book’s accompanying playlist containing many of the pieces Heather performs.)
As a pianist myself (although very much an amateur) it made sense to me that Heather would often see the world in musical terms. For example, boarding the ship along with other crew members, she likens the booming voice of the crew manager who greets them to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, ‘a bombastic work that uses artillery in the percussion section for effect’. In the same vein, she sees the crew with its mix of different nationalities and ages as a composition ‘that had used every note on the keyboard’. These comparisons are in stark constrast to the jarring soundtrack of Heather’s childhood during which ‘unexplained sounds were rarely good’ and playing duets with her sister was a much-needed distraction.
Your view of what happens around halfway through the book will depend on whether you are a strong believer in fate. I’ll just say that it does provide answers to the many questions that have haunted Heather and help to assuage the feeling of guilt she has been burdened with for so many years.
Nothing Else is an assured composition written in both major and minor keys. Although in musical terms I would describe the tempo as andante, it ends with a crowd-pleasing flourish akin to the rousing notes at the end of a symphony.
In three words: Emotional, heartwarming, absorbing
Try something similar: The Dust Bowl Orphans by Suzette D. Harrison
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About the Author
All six of Louise Beech’s books have been digital bestsellers. Her novels have been a Guardian Readers’ Choice, shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize, and shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice.
Louise lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull.
Connect with Louise
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