#BookReview The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce #20BooksOfSummer20

TheMusicShopAbout the Book

1988. Frank owns a music shop. It is jam-packed with records of every speed, size and genre. Classical, jazz, punk – as long as it’s vinyl he sells it. Day after day Frank finds his customers the music they need.

Then into his life walks Ilse Brauchmann. Ilse asks Frank to teach her about music. His instinct is to turn and run. And yet he is drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with her pea-green coat and her eyes as black as vinyl. But Ilse is not what she seems. And Frank has old wounds that threaten to re-open and a past he will never leave behind …

Format: Hardcover (336 pages)    Publisher: Doubleday
Publication date: 13th July 2017 Genre: Fiction

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My Review

The Music Shop has been on my bookshelf ever since I heard Rachel Joyce talk about the book at Henley Literary Festival in 2017. You can read my review of the event here. Now I’ve finally read it, I’m kicking myself that it took me so long.

Set mainly in 1988, the book conjures up a vivid picture of that time – lava lamps, Ritz crackers, high street shops such and Dolcis and Tammy, using the Yellow Pages to find a tradesman. I know I’m showing my age now but I can remember browsing in record shops for the latest vinyl releases. This passage especially, as Frank takes delivery of new stock, evoked such memories.

Boxes of vinyl began to arrive the next morning. Rare original pressings, bootleg copies, white-label promotional labels, as well as entire box-set collections. Seven- and 12-inch singles in the shape of hearts, birds and hats; limited-edition releases on coloured discs in blue, red, orange, yellow, white and even multicoloured splatter. Soundtrack records, popular favourites. World music, second-hand classics, demos. Rare mono recordings, limited-edition audiophile pressings… Plain sleeves, picture sleeves. Albums with posters, fold-out flaps and signed covers.”

In the residents of Unity Street, Rachel Joyce has created a fabulous community of diverse individuals who nevertheless feel a growing sense of togetherness, especially when outside forces threaten to bring unwanted change. “Here they were, living together on Unity Street, trying to make a difference in the world, knowing they couldn’t, but still doing it anyway.

The book has a wonderful cast of secondary characters such as Maud, the owner of a tattoo parlour, Father Anthony, the owner of a religious gift shop, “Saturday” Kit who helps out in Frank’s shop, Mrs Roussos and her chihuahua…oh, and not forgetting the matchmaking waitress of The Singing Teapot.

I loved the little stories about the customers whom Frank helps with music choices, such as the man who ‘only listens to Chopin’. Frank’s uncanny ability to prescribe the music others need for their current predicament leads to some unexpected choices. My favourites were his selection of the perfect lullaby for a sleepless child and an album to rekindle a marriage that has lost his spark. In fact, I could have read a whole book of such stories.

Interspersed with events in Unity Street are Frank’s memories of his childhood growing up with his mother, Peg. Sadly for Frank, Peg lacked the conventional instincts of motherhood – “show Peg a boundary, she crashed straight through it” – but she was at least responsible for inspiring his passion for music through her wonderful stories about composers and musicians. As the reader will discover, she’s also the reason Frank cannot bear to listen to a particular piece of music. Unfortunately, Peg’s actions will come to influence Frank’s relationships with others as he grows up. “Frank was so busy loving other people he had no room to accommodate the fact that someone might turn round one day and love him back.”

Will meeting Ilse Brauchmann change things for Frank? Obviously, I’m not going to tell you but all I will say is, that if you’ve read any of Rachel Joyce’s previous books, you’ll know she has a knack for taking readers on an emotional journey. The Music Shop is no exception. I was advised by a fellow blogger who had read the book to have tissues ready at the end; they were right.

The Music Shop is just the sort of warm, uplifting story perfect for the times we’re living through. As Kit says at one point, “I can’t imagine a world without Frank”. Hallelujah to that.

In three words: Charming, funny, uplifting

Try something similar (in the spirit of Frank): In My Life: A Music Memoir by Alan Johnson

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116433648_3250124005044448_5505438321894254958_oAbout the Author

Rachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Perfect, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, The Music Shop and a collection of interlinked short stories, A Snow Garden & Other Stories. Her work has been translated into thirty-six languages.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Rachel was awarded the Specsavers National Book Awards ‘New Writer of the Year’ in December 2012 and shortlisted for the ‘UK Author of the Year’ in 2014.

Rachel has also written over twenty original afternoon plays and adaptations of the classics for BBC Radio 4, including all the Bronte novels. She moved to writing after a long career as an actor, performing leading roles for the RSC, the National Theatre and Cheek by Jowl. She lives with her family in Gloucestershire. (Photo credit: Facebook author page)

Connect with Rachel
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The Time Machine by H.G. Wells #BookReview #classics #sciencefiction

61fg+BR7jTL._SX342_About the Book

When a Victorian scientist propels himself into the year 802,701 AD, he is initially delighted to find that suffering has been replaced by beauty, contentment and peace.

Entranced at first by the Eloi, an elfin species descended from man, he soon realises that this beautiful people are simply remnants of a once-great culture – now weak and childishly afraid of the dark. But they have every reason to be afraid: in deep tunnels beneath their paradise lurks another race descended from humanity – the sinister Morlocks.

And when the scientist’s time machine vanishes, it becomes clear he must search these tunnels, if he is ever to return to his own era.

Format: Audiobook (3h 22m)                            Publisher: Ladbroke Audio
Publication date: 6th February 2017 [1895] Genre: Classics, Science Fiction

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My Review

The Time Machine
The Time Machine (1960)

The Time Machine is a story I realised I knew mainly from the 1960 film version starring Rod Taylor. I was interested, therefore, to see how much of the original book made it through the adaptation process. The answer is a surprising amount.

Although in the book the lead character is never named but instead referred to throughout as ‘the Time Traveller’, in both versions he gives an account of his experiences to a group of (mostly disbelieving) friends gathered for a weekly dinner. He describes how, far from the utopia hoped for, in the time period to which he travelled humankind has evolved into two distinct races: the degenerate, underground-dwelling Morlocks; and the indolent, rather childlike, surface-dwelling Eloi.

In the film there is no discussion about how the change in society might have come about but in the book the Time Traveller gives a lot of thought to the cause of such a marked stratification of society. His initial theory positions the Eloi as the superior, aristocratic race given they live a life of leisure, engaging in no work to feed or clothe themselves. The Morlocks on the other hand are the workers toiling beneath the surface. This probably reflects Wells’s own socialist views and life experiences.  It was common at the end of the 19th century for workers to live ‘below stairs’ or work in basements and the idea of the ‘haves’ exploiting the ‘have nots’ easily transfer to the book.

However, the Time Traveller becomes perplexed and a little frustrated by the passivity and lack of curiosity of the Eloi. In his view, humanity cannot make progress or innovate without struggle. In addition, the Eloi seem to have little care for one another or any fear of danger – until nightfall, that is. The reason for the latter gradually becomes apparent and eventually the awful truth of the relationship between the two races is revealed.

In the book, the Eloi are described as short, pale, and elfin-like whereas in the film they are blonde and beautiful. The Weena of the book, the only member of the Eloi who engages with the Time Traveller, is definitely not the glamorous character played by Yvette Mimieux in the film. In fact, the Time Traveller’s relationship with the childlike Weena in the book felt a little uncomfortable. The Morlocks in the book are albino and spider-like and I found the scenes in which they appear much scarier than I remember from watching the film.

Events towards the end of The Time Machine mean it is left to the reader to imagine what direction – past or future – the Time Traveller’s adventures will take him and when, or if, he might return to his own time. In the film, it seems fairly obvious.

There are aspects of The Time Machine that now seem distinctly prophetic. For example, the Time Traveller notes the temperature in the future is much higher than in his own century. When he ventures even further ahead in time, what he sees is a vision of a dying Sun and apocalyptic climate change. (The film version sees the Time Traveller witnessing events in the much more immediate future.)

It’s amazing to think how many of the concepts associated with time travel in modern fiction and film are owed to The Time Machine, a book written in 1895.  It’s a testament to the fertile imagination of H.G. Wells.

The audiobook version I listened to was narrated by John Banks who did a good job throughout but especially in communicating the Time Traveller’s sense of fear in some of the more dramatic scenes. 

In three words: Inventive, thought-provoking, chilling

Try something similar: The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

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About the Author

Herbert George Wells was a novelist, teacher, historian and journalist, who has become known as the “father of science fiction.” His works have been adapted countless times, and provided the basis for many literary and theatrical productions.

About the Narrator

John Banks is one of the UK’s most prolific audiobook narrators, working for the likes of Big Finish, Audible, Random House and Games Workshop. He is a true multi-voice, creating everything from monsters to marauding aliens. He is also an accomplished stage and TV actor.