The Music Shop, by Rachel Joyce (2017, 2018)

Romance
Adult
The Music Shop, by Rachel JoyceWe who love to share books know all about “Read-Alikes” – lists of book suggestions for those who want ideas on what to read next, based on a title they adored. Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and others, has created the music shop equivalent to a read-alike list. Set in 1988 on down-at-its-heels Unity Street somewhere in England, Frank runs his store using the idea of what I might call “listen-alikes.” The records are organized, if you can call it that, to encourage serendipitous musical discovery – “If you like Genesis, trust me. You’ll love Mendelssohn.” Frank also uses music to help people, a kind of music therapy. When a customer with a broken heart comes in looking for Chopin, Frank convinces him to try Aretha Franklin’s Oh No Not My Baby. It’s exactly what he needed to hear. Life is pretty good for Frank – he lives above his shop and doesn’t make much money, but he is doing what he loves – sharing music, irritating salespeople by refusing to stock CDs, and with his fellow shopkeepers fighting against the deterioration of Unity Street. Until Ilse Brauchmann arrives, and upends his world. She’s German, she’s engaged, and, she tells the shocked Frank, she doesn’t listen to music. While technically, I suppose, this is a romance, it’s really about loss and grief, the importance of community, and about finding courage. I’ve come to anticipate Joyce’s great writing, and she doesn’t disappoint: “Music is about silence… the silence at the beginning of a piece of music is always different from the silence at the end… Because if you listen, the world changes.” And the music – oh, the music. Joyce includes an afterword thanking all those who helped with her research into music for this novel, inspiring Frank’s unlikely pairings (Puccini’s Tosca with Led Zep’s Stairway to Heaven!). Give yourself extra time to read this novel, because you’ll be pausing to play the music and really listen. Helpfully, there’s a Spotify playlist of all the music. A sweet novel that hits just the right notes as it celebrates music, independent business, and love against the odds, spanning decades from Frank’s early memories through to today’s world of iPhones and flash mobs. My thanks to Random House for the advance reading copy provided through NetGalley.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31869154
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