Thursday, January 4, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

I received this book for free from Netgalley. This did not influence my review.

I really enjoyed The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, so I was happy to receive her latest, The Music Shop, from Netgalley to review.

This is another sweet story about a lonely man with some endearing quirks who overcomes a painful past to find love.

Frank owns a music shop on a dead-end street in a not very fashionable corner of London. He was brought up by an unconventional mother who was obsessed with music and men, but not so much with being a mother. She raises Frank to distrust relationships both by example and by instruction. From his mother, he has learned to appreciate any kind of music so long as it is played on vinyl. He believes CDs are a fad and refuses to stock them. What keeps customers coming back is the service. Frank has a sixth sense for what customers need. He listens to their stories, learns what they think they want which usually isn’t really what they want, then plucks out just the right record to heal their souls.

One day, a slight, pretty woman faints in front of his store. Frank and his employee bring her in and revive her. She (Ilse Brauchmann) has a German accent and mysterious ways. She and Frank gaze into each other’s eyes and something happens. But they are both wounded and frightened. She disappears then returns with a "thank you" plant, disappears again but "forgets" her purse. Before long, she and Frank are meeting on Tuesday evenings for music lessons. He enthusiastically teaches her about all sorts of music, giving her records and instructing her to listen.

There are complications. She has a fiancee, so Frank won’t confide how he feels. Frank is so stand-offish that she won’t confide anything.

Meanwhile, the neighborhood is going downhill fast and record suppliers are pressuring Frank to sell CDs or else they will cut him off.

The story is sweet; however, it was an average read. The over-the-top quirkiness was a bit too much. The lack of communication between the characters was necessary and understandable, but it got to the point where I no longer cared if they got together. Frank, in particular, took so long to get over himself that I started to think Ilse was better off looking elsewhere–even if he was generally kind. Still, I think I would have enjoyed this more if it didn’t seem like I’d already read variations of the story. I’ve read a few books where bookshop owners had the unique gift of knowing just what book to put in the hands of characters drifting into their shops with various emotional needs, so it felt as though Joyce simply exchanged records for books. I am impressed, however, with the detailed knowledge of music and musicians Joyce was able to express through Frank.

For music lovers looking for a sweet love story, The Music Shop is a good bet. But for those who haven’t read Rachel Joyce yet, I’d recommend starting with The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.