Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Music Shop

Title:  The Music Shop
Author:  Rachel Joyce
Publication Information:  Random House. 2018. 320 pages.
ISBN:  0812996682 / 978-0812996685

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "There was once a music shop."

Favorite Quote:  "Helping someone is entirely different from being involved. Helping is all on your own terms."

This book picks up on a formula often used in books. A bookseller, a dressmaker, a musician, and so on has a special ability to find just the right book, dress, music, etc. to meet the needs of their customer. The customer most often does not even realize their own needs. Of course, the bookseller, dressmaker, musician, etc. has his or her own needs and angst. Slowly, in solving the concerns of other, he or she manages to find their own path forward.

The books have the potential to be sweet and uplifting. They call for a belief in that ability or the "magic" of the book. Call it magic, call it serendipity, call it grace. Whatever the name, we all have that need to believe. Overall, the stories are feel good reads. The biggest "if" of the stories is the reader's ability to believe.

The time period is the 1980s London. The setting is a run-down neighborhood of London. The significance of time to this book is because of the technology of music. The early 1980s were when music compact discs (CDs) came our commercially. They could store more music. They did not have to be rewound like cassettes tapes. They eliminated some of the scratch and interference of records. They introduced an entirely new way of sharing and listening to music.

Most people made the switch, but not Frank, the operator of a small music shop. He is older, set in his ways, and quirky as such characters are likely to be. His biggest stand is that he refuses to embrace CDs and is insistent on selling only vinyl records. Why? It's never quite clear. It is interesting as currently, vinyl is making a comeback in music. Unfortunately, for Frank at that time, vinyl records are a losing proposition.

Of course, Frank is surrounded by a cast of other quirky characters. The retired priest who runs a gift shop. The tattoo artist who likes Frank but who Frank never quite sees. Frank's assistant who has the best intentions to help but that often leads to disaster. Finally, Ilse Brauchmann who mysteriously arrives on Frank's doorstep and changes everything.

In addition to the characters, the book has a lot of story lines. Periodically, chapters reveal Frank's eccentric childhood and the love and the scars it leaves behind. Frank makes certain choices about his music business which have implications for the store. The run-down little street is threatened by building code violations and developers looking to take over. Frank and Ilse Brauchmann develop an instant connection, providing the love story in the book. There is a story of unrequited love. After all that, a fire is thrown in for good measure.

One reason for picking this book is the fact that I do believe in the impact of music. I have different pieces I turn to based on what emotional need I have at a particular moment in time. In this day of digital music, that constitute that I have a play list for every mood.

Unfortunately for me, this book becomes about something different than the power of music. I never quite buy into the characters or the story. I cannot quite identify why, but I don't. Perhaps, it is the multiple story lines. Perhaps, it is the insta-love story of Frank and Ilse. Perhaps, it's a lot of characters, dispersing the focal point of the book. Somewhat, it never quite becomes real for, which is sad because a sweet, feel good story about the power of music would be a welcome one.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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