Where Poppies Blow by John Lewis-Stempel
To be invited along to see the announcement of the winning book/author in this year’s Wainwrights Golden Beer Book Prize held at Blenheim Palace during Countryfile Live was a real honour. I was privileged to meet most of the writers both before and after the prize ceremony. I said during the run up to the day that the 2017 prize was the toughest yet as the quality of the writing is just an exceptional high standard and gets better and better every year. One of the writers on this year’s shortlist was John Lewis-Stempel who had two books with The Running Hare and Where Poppies Blow listed and it was in the end his book Where Poppies Blow came out as the winner of the 2017 Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize.
Many books have been written of the horrors of The Great War and the hell that the soldiers endured. My bookshelves are filled with books on WWI and also natural history but I have not yet come across a book that takes a look at how the British soldiers explored nature during the darkest years of 1914-18. They lived in nature it was in fact all around them and in Where Poppies Blow John Lewis- Stempel explores the soldier’s relationship with the plants and animals and how nature helped to fill the hours and days of the men that filled the trenches. From those who kept logs of the birds and plants they saw to the men who kept gardens as a reminder of home. Nature has a way of enduring like no other. To endure the hell of the trenches in The Great War the men needed something to take their minds off the horror they witnessed on a daily basis. Britain sent over five million men to the battlefields during those years but one fact that many may not understand was just how many horses, mules and donkeys were sent to aid the war effort, in total more than two million with many of them dying in such dreadful conditions. But without these animals Britain would not have been able to have continued the war. Many of the men cared deeply about their horses in their charge and here in Where Poppies Blow there is a chapter dedicated to the bravery of these animals with words and poems.
In Flanders Fields, the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
When you read how the British Soldiers kept both flower garden and also vegetable garden and held show to decide winners this was both to keep up morale and the reminder of home life and in fact the growing vegetables helped feed the men in the trenches. There are chapters also on men and how they kept notebooks on the daily bird sightings and even nesting birds despite the shelling. To hear Larks singing in between the fighting must have been on one hand been calming and on another near impossible. Nature carried on despite the hell that was The Great War. Nature had a way of healing it was all around them from the Poppies of the battlefields to the Skylarks that sang while shells rained down.
Where Poppies Blow is a truly remarkable insight to life of the British soldier during The Great War and a side that many will have never known. John Lewis-Stempel has written many books on both natural history and also military history and this deserves its place among the best. The Wainwright chair of judges Julia Bradbury described Where Poppies Blow as “an extraordinary book about the healing power and resilience of nature in the darkest of times”
This is a remarkable and moving book and one that I whole-heartedly recommend. The poems alone will move you to tears. This is the second time that John Lewis-Stempel has won the Wainwrights Golden Beer Book Prize. He previously won it in 2015 with Meadowland (Transworld).
Thank you to Laura Creyke at the Wainwright Prize for the advanced review copy of Where Poppies Blow and all of the books on the 2017 Wainwright Prize
Where Poppies Blow by John Lewis-Stempel is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops. The Paperback will be released on 14th September.
Many who love the writing of Joanna Cannon have been very excited over recent days with the news of her second book Three Things About Elsie due for release in early January 2018. The first copies of the proofs were issued late last week and the early news is that this is going to be a much loved book and will touch all who read it. It will be one of the books of next year that is without doubt.
Joanna’s debut novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep went on to become a bestseller and today is still selling extremely well and was even selected to be on the Richard and Judy Book Club for WH Smith. It is a remarkable debut novel about two ten-year-old girls Grace and Tilly who set about trying to solve a mystery. Mrs Creasy is missing and there are whispers. A beautiful written novel about secrets behind every front door but it is more than just that.
It came to my attention that there are still some (yes hard to believe) that have not yet discovered The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and as Joanna’s forthcoming second novel is already talk of social media with a cover that is just pure Battenberg, I thought it would be a good time to a competition to win not just one copy but I have two to give away. But that is not all. These editions are the special copies produced in the yellow paperback cover as issued by Sainsbury’s to celebrate Summer as this wonderful novel is set in a long hot Summer that some of us still recall. Sadly, I am not offering free Battenberg as I am keeping that for myself. Sorry!
To enter the competition all you have to do is head over to my Twitter page The Last Word 1962 and answer one simple question:
In what year is the novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep based in. Then follow and RT the main pinned Tweet and you are in with a chance. There I told it was easy. It is easy honest.
Just to recap:
- In what year is the novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep based?
- Follow and Re-Tweet the pinned Tweet
The completion will close at 7pm on Thursday 17th August 2018 and two lucky winners will be selected at random on Friday morning. The Winners will receive a Direct Message from me on Twitter that morning. All being well prizes will be sent out within a few days. Good luck.
Behind Her Back by Jane Lythell
When Jane Lythell released Woman of the Hour last year a fictional story based around life at a TV studio it was a break away from the thrillers that Jane had previously written and it really worked. I loved the idea of the story and the characters. I was delighted to hear that there would be a follow up and now just released through Head of Zeus is Behind Her Back and this I loved just as much as Woman of the Hour.
Jane Lythell writes with experience as she was a TV producer for many years so reading Behind Her Back does feel like you are a fly on the wall at StoryWorld. I really enjoyed the main character in Liz Lyon a busy single mother to a teenage daughter Flo. Now after an enjoyable holiday in Italy she is back at the TV studio but there is a new face that has joined the team. Just who is Lori Kerwell? Liz is such an endearing character you just want the best for her as she works so hard at the station and coping as a single mum with all the daily challenges. The station apparently has brought Lori in to help increase the ratings and therefore increase in profits but Liz feels there may be another reason for bringing in Lori. Something is going on and Liz is not being told.
As you can imagine there are some rather big egos at the station and at times for Liz it is like walking on broken glass as she tries to keep her team happy and motivated and working together. It is not long before the memories of the wonderful holiday in Italy start to fade as realisation dawn that something is going on and that feeling of wishing you had eyes in the back of your head really does come to the fore. Who does Liz really trust at the station now and why was she not told they were recruiting before she left for her holiday. Jane Lythell really has written a brilliant and gripping follow up. If you have not read Woman of the Hour you will want to after reading Behind Her Back. At times it is explosive and will have you turning the pages rather quickly as you will want to know what is really happening. This is quality drama and a slice of real life drama. Jane Lythell hits the right note again with this follow up novel and one I highly recommend.
Thank you to Head of Zeus for the advanced review copy.
Behind Her Back by Jane Lythell is published by Head of Zeus was published on 10th August and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Are you following the Behind Her Back Blog Tour
Johannesburg by Fiona Melrose
The debut novel Midwinter by Fiona Melrose was so well received it was longlisted for the 2017 Baileys Women’s Prize for 2017 and was one of my books for 2016. It’s voice still to this day resonates with as it was so beautifully written. Fiona Melrose returns with her second novel Johannesburg and the cover alone (Neil Gower) is just breath-taking.
The premise for Johannesburg is that it is set just over one day, and that day being 6th December 2013 the story follows Gin Brandt who grew up in South Africa and became an artist and moved to New York. But this is a time for celebration as it is her mother’s 80th birthday and Gin returns home to the place of her birth to be with her family.
But also there is great sadness, the world will at the same time hear of the passing of Nelson Mandela at the age of 95. The world is about to mourn the loss of this great man. There is so much within this book to absorb and not just the storyline. The characters that make up this astonishing novel really make the story come alive. Whether it is the mother and daughter coming together and trying to understand the past as well as the present to the housekeeper and domestic servant a past love and there is also a homeless man who was badly injured while protesting on worker’s rights. It is all here. With each character they each in turn bring something to the story which brings it to life.
The more you read through this novel the more your mind may start to play a little trick with you. Many will have read Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Wolf. In Johannesburg, Fiona Melrose has paid the ultimate tribute to Mrs Dalloway. This is true homage to a classic story and Melrose throws her heart and soul into her second novel. Ambitious? Yes, without any doubt. The next question is does she pull it off? In my view this is an extraordinary novel that at times is just runs with emotion just like the city itself on that very day when hearts and minds all met a day of history. Fiona Melrose tells it straight as she tells us of a troubled and divided city, with all its inequalities and prejudices and the violence that haunts this city. There is so much to take in through the pages of Johannesburg and I am not giving any clues as to how the story proceeds. This is a book that will linger with you for some time after you have finishes reading. I am delighted to HIGHLY RECOMMEND Johannesburg and a book for your Summer reading.
Thank you to Helen Upton for the advanced review copy of Johannesburg
Johannesburg by Fiona Melrose was published by Corsair on 3rd August and is available through through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
This Beautiful Life by Katie Marsh
I cannot believe this is Katie Marsh’s third book already. Time seems to have gone so quickly since the launch of her wonderful debut novel My Everything in 2015. I am delighted to be a part of the official blog tour for This Beautiful Life. Another breath-taking that will break your heart and also make you laugh. It is just brilliant.
If you have not discovered any of the three books by Katie Marsh, then you are not just missing out on incredible books but also a writer that has cemented her place among the best of the recent new writers.
This is the story about Abi, she is in remission from Cancer and this really is her moment to grab hold of life and give this a second chance. This is Abi’s story and is set to her favourite playlist of her songs. This story is also about relationships and during the time when Abi was very ill you would think her husband John would be her rock but this appears not to be the case. We also meet their teenage son Seb who has a secret all of his own and is struggling not only coping with his mum’s illness but also fighting his own battle and it really is beginning to take its toll on Seb. This was really heart-breaking at times to read. So at a time when the family should be strong and united to help Abi, it is in fact a family divided and on the verge of breaking down.
Now she is recovering from Cancer Abi want to fight for another chance and bring her family back from the brink. I often speak about characters in novels and how important it is to make them real with real lives facing the same problems in everyday life that we all face. When you know someone who is suffering from Cancer you know the problems they face and not just on the medical side but also personal and financial. It all adds the stress and worry. With Katie Marsh and how she creates her characters they are as real as you and me. There is no higher praise. I am a huge admirer of her writing.
None of us are perfect and here in This Beautiful Life all the key characters all have their issues and I had to wonder while reading how this was all going to play out in the end not just for Abi but also for John and Seb. Sometimes when you know things are going wrong in life you feel as though you have lost control and at some point you are going to hit rock bottom. Abi must have thought this while she was fighting that dreadful disease but then you turn the corner and more problems are waiting to knock you down even more. Families and secrets. Oh yes we all know this goes on and her in this story it hits home. I am not going to give away how this ends. But you REALLY want and should read this beautifully written book that will break you and lift you. If it comes across that I am a bit of a fan of Katie Marsh and her writing, well I admit I am because her books are real life and the characters are just so believable and real. This is a writer who not just puts her heart and soul into her writing but goes even beyond that if that is possible. It is sad, funny heart-breaking and moving. It is a book that you should add to your Summer reading pile and I promise you will not regret reading. Apologies if there are tears while reading. HIGH RECOMMENDED
Thank you to Emma Knight and Hodder & Stoughton for the advanced review copy of This Beautiful Life.
This Beautiful Life by Katie Marsh was published by Hodder & Stoughton on 27th July and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
This Beautiful Life Official Blog Tour
As we come to the end of July a real sense of excitement for me as one of my favourite book prizes of the year announcements is just a few days away. The Wainwright Book Prize 2017 in association with The National Trust is an award that celebrates the very best in writing about Nature and the great outdoors. One of my boyhood heroes was Alfred Wainwright and I have spent many hours just reading those wonderful iconic Pictorial Guides to the fells of the Lake District. It is no secret that one of my favourite genres in books is nature and the outdoors and my bookshelves are filled to capacity with some of the great books on these subjects. There is nothing better than being out in wilderness whether that is just being at one with nature or just admiring the stunning beautiful wild places that we have in our countryside from the mountains and islands of Scotland to the fells of the Lakes and the valleys of Wales and not forgetting our hardworking farmers. These are places to rejoice and to treasure now but above all for future generations. We are the caretakers and must preserve for our children and theirs to come.
I was honoured to have been given the opportunity to read all the books that make up The Wainwright Book Prize shortlist for 2017. I am still reading through the books and my personal reviews will appear soon. On the 27th June the shortlist was announced and on Thursday 3rd August direct from the BBC Countryfile live show the judges will announce this year’s winners. You can of course read more about the award and the judges chaired by TV’s Julia Bradbury on the website The Wainwright Prize Ahead of the announcement I thought I would give you just give a little introduction into the seven books that make up the shortlist.
The Wainwright Book Prize Shortlist 2017:
The January Man (A Year of Walking Britain) by Christopher Somerville (Doubleday)
The Running Hare by John Lewis-Stempel (Doubleday)
Love of Country (A Hebridean Journey) by Madeleine Bunting (Granta)
The Otters’ Tale by Simon Cooper (William Collins)
Wild Kingdom by Stephen Moss (Vintage)
The Wild Other by Clover Stroud (Hodder & Stoughton)
Where Poppies Blow by John Lewis-Stempel (W&N)
Previous Winners of The Wainwright Book Prize.
2016: The Outrun by Amy Liptrot (Canongate Books)
2015: Meadowland by John Lewis-Stempel (Transworld Publishers)
2014: The Green Road into Trees: A Walk Through England by Hugh Thompson (Windmill/Random House)
The 2017 Shortlisted Books
The January Man – A Year Walking of Britain by Christopher Somerville
This is the story of a year of walking around Britain and was in fact inspired by the song of the same name by Dave Goulder. The author sets off on a journey of discovery with memories of his late father walks that would cover all four seasons from all four corners of Britain from the Scottish isles to forests and vales. This in itself is a hope that readers will don their walking boots and grab their walking poles and explore the length and breadth of our country and the rich natural history and landscapes regardless of the vagaries of the British weather.
Rich not only in its descriptions but the exquisite writing of Christopher Somerville who has written thirty-six books.
The Otter’s Tale by Simon Cooper
For those like me who remember reading Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson then The Otter’s Tale by Simon Cooper will also surely appeal. Simon bought what was an abandoned water mill in Southern England and then go on to share his home and his life with a family of wild Otters.
What this enabled Simon Cooper to achieve was to observe one of this country most secretive of mammals and he did so at very close quarters. The family allowed the author to become a member of their own family and in turn this gives the reader a personal and unique insight into the lives of the Otters in what turned out to be an extraordinary relationship of trust between Otter and man the close relationship between Simon and the female Otter called Kuschta is incredibly close and personal.
Within this story Simon Cooper also discusses the natural history of Otters here in the UK and a mammal that was once so persecuted that it was very close to being extinct in this country. A year in the life of not only Simon Cooper but also a beautiful insight to a family of Otters that shared the life of the author.
Love of Country – A Hebridean Journey by Madeleine Bunting
Some of my happiest of memories are those when I have been walking on some of the islands of the Western Coast of Scotland. Just mention the names of some of the islands like Jura, St. Kilda, Lewis, Harris, Sky, Rum and so many more. Each rich in their own history and also natural history. Here Madeleine Bunting a former Guardian journalist takes us on a journey that took six years to complete. Each time she would return there was more history and culture to uncover more islands to explore. The history of these islands shapes our countries history even today. The author not only explores but also asks questions. This is a wonderful travel companion if you are heading to one of the islands for a holiday. Read before you go and read while you are there as there is so much to read and learn. A wonderful book.
The Running Hare by John Lewis-Stempel
A former winner of the Wainwright Book Prize this year has two books on the Shortlist, the first titled The Running Hare looks at life on a farmland, the wild animals and plants that life on it and in it. This is an extraordinary piece of writing and you can see why this writer is so acclaimed. With so many species lost, this is a farmer who took a field and farmed it in a traditional way to conserve the wildlife that inhabit our fields. He talks about the birds that feed off the land and microbes that live in the land each having their own battle to survive modern practices. In fast paced modern world can farming go back to old practices to husband farmland thereby protecting the wildlife that also share the same farmland. A Place were the wild Hare can call home and live safely. Beautifully written and profound. A book that will stand the test of time and will be read by future generations to come. This is one of the great nature writers of our time.
The Wild Other by Clover Stroud
A deeply moving memoir from Clover Stroud about a life that was shaped by a tragic accident to her mother when Clover was only sixteen-years-old. Her mother was left with brain damage after a riding accident. Clover found herself from gypsy camps in Ireland to rodeos of Texas then to the far reaches of Russia before the White Horse vale of England brought her home to England. These journeys she took in the name of trying to understand a sense of home that was left shattered and broken. A remarkable and deeply honest account of loss and love. Nature has the power to heal the wounds that seem never to heal and here in The Wild Other Clover Stroud tells her personal story that is full of bravery and a life lived to the full. At times frank Clover reveals all in this haunting memoir that will both move and inspire the reader.
Wild Kingdom by Stephen Moss
Stephen Moss is the acclaimed naturalist, writer and TV producer. Here in Wild Kingdom Stephen Moss at times is frank about this countries disappearing wildlife and asks some important questions about the land we share with the animals the Britain. It is not all bad news, just look at how Otters are now doing. But many others are not faring so well and Moss poses the question how can we bring back Britain’s wildlife. With intensive farming practices and housing developments taking over and wildlife being squeezed out of their natural homes something has to give and the wildlife suffers as a consequence. There has to be room for both man and wildlife to life in harmony. Rewilding is a term we may yet start to hear more of in the years ahead. So many questions are posed here. Moss takes us on a journey from farmland to wetlands from one part of the country to another. He knows what he is talking about and there is so much to understand. Common sense is key. If we care about our wildlife we can make a difference. It is not all bad news there is much to praise but there is not resting on laurels as there is work to do. Generations to come will point to our generation if we do not. This is so well written by a man who is passionate about the future of our wildlife.
Where Poppies Blow by John Lewis-Stempel
Where Poppies Blow is the second book by John Lewis-Stempel in this year’s Shortlist along with his The Running Hare. We all know of the horrors of the Great War. But in this book the author takes the connection between the British soldiers fighting in the Great War and the animals and plants and the relationships between them.
For many soldiers living inside the land they were close to nature as you can possibly get, many soldiers sought solace in the birds and plants around them, at desperate times it provided both peace and solace in a place of sheer hell. Many soldiers indeed were birdwatchers and there are stories of officers and men fishing in flooded shell craters. Here you will read of soldiers planting flower beds in trenches, this sounds truly remarkable but John Lewis-Stempel has researched this book and brings to life the incredible stories of fighting men and nature and in the end the cure that only nature can bring in its purest form. There is a quote on the inside of the book that just sums up what the men went through. ‘If it weren’t for the birds, what a hell it would be’. A remarkable book that will take pride of place among the many natural history books in my book case.
I have been following The Wainwright Book Prize now for a number of years and I believe this has to be the strongest of the shortlists yet. The quality of the writing is just outstanding. I am not sure if it is just me but it just gets stronger and stronger every year. I really do not envy the judges in their decision, but every one of these seven books is a real candidate to win the prize. Could John Lewis-Stempel win the prize again? I just have a feeling The Running Hare is going to be the book to look out for on Thursday. I would love to hear your views on the shortlist and if you have a favourite to win. I will of course be following the prize announcement as and when it happens and will Tweet the winning book as soon as I know over on my Twitter page The Last Word 1962 I will be reviewing each of the books in the coming weeks.
Yesterday by Felicia Yap
Summer is the time when we all tend to relax with a good book, well I am now going to let you in advance of a book that is hitting the bookshops in a few weeks’ time that is going to be THE thriller of the summer. Those that follow my Twitter feed will know that I have been talking of the stunning debut thriller Yesterday by Felicia Yap. This is a name that you will be hearing a lot more about.
The premise for this book is ‘How do you solve a murder when you can only remember yesterday’ and this is where the title of the novel comes from. This is a future world with two types of people, Mono’s those that can only remember yesterday and the more elite group of people called Duos who can also remember the day before yesterday. I world were iDiaries are the must have for everyone as this is the only way of knowing what you have been doing on a daily basis, just imagine every night before bed if you were a responsible adult you completed your iDiary filling in your day’s activities. Welcome to a dystopian mystery that is just brilliantly written with such unique characters unlike any I have come across in a thriller.
In this engrossing novel we have two central characters in Claire who is a mono (can only remember yesterday) and is married to Mark a Duo (remembering two days). This is a couple with their own personal marital problems which are all too plain to see from the opening pages. Then a young beautiful woman is found dead in the River Cam she has been murdered and the detective is standing on the doorstep of Claire and Marks home. It appears that on the dead woman’s I Diary she claims that she is Mark’s mistress and now Mark is the prime suspect in her murder. So we go back to the premise of the novel in ‘How do you solve a murder when you can only remember yesterday.’
We now find Claire trying to piece together the days leading up to the murder of the young woman and the story is told from the perspective of all four of the leading characters and a story so well thought out and told, an incredibly well balanced debut thriller based in a future world were memory really is short term. There are many twists in the story to keep you on your toes and some you will not expect.
Great characters are important to me in novels and in Yesterday Felicia Yap has created some very strong characters that make this an unforgettable book and one that you will not forget easily. I was lucky enough to meet Felicia Yap earlier this year at a get together at the publishers and learnt more of the story from her directly. One of my major books of 2017 and one I know many people are going to be reading on the beaches through this summer. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Thank you to Millie Seaward for the advanced review copy.
Yesterday by Felicia Yap is published by Wildfire on 10th August and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Malice by Hugh Fraser
Hugh Fraser returns with Malice the third in the series following up from Harm and Threat also back is Rina Walker in 1960’s London and if you have read and loved Hugh’s first two then you are in for a real treat. This is an action packed thriller that packs a punch from the first page and will keep you gripped to the very last.
1960’s London was well known for gangs and its leaders and we love a hero who will take them on, in this series we have a heroine in Rina a complex character and she fearlessly takes on the ‘bosses’ and hunts down those she needs to. There is violence as you would come to expect in this series. Rina is a gritty woman and one you would not pick a fight with, a gritty and determined leading character.
This time around Rina is hired to ‘take out’ a rival gangland leader who is threatening George Preston’s patch. But what Rina does not realise is that dealing with one problem will unleash more danger and revenge. The violence is at times graphic as the story takes us from Soho to the Midlands and then to the Spanish Coast. Like the previous two in the series I raced through this as it is a fast paced addictive read. If, however you have not read the first two in the series fear not as they can be read on their own. Be warned though, read on and you will want to read the entire series. One day a screenwriter will read one of these and will see just how dramatic they are and will want to transfer to the small screen. It would make for dramatic television viewing.
Thank you to Matthew at Urbane Publications for the advanced review copy of Malice.
Malice by Hugh Fraser is published by Urbane Publications and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
The Other Twin – L V Hay
Take a bow Karen Sullivan founder of Orenda Books yet again she has found yet another outstanding writer and one to watch for the future. L V Hay may not be a name you are familiar with but this may be about to change as with her debut psychological thriller The Other Twin was released earlier this month and if you are heading for a Summer holiday then this is one book you may want to seriously consider packing this in your case as one of your holiday reads. It really is a wonderfully layered thriller.
Where do it start with this review apart from telling the world that they must read The Other Twin? Poppy wakes from a night that she can barely recall and with the hangover to go with it, she finds her mobile and the battery is lifeless finally finding the charger she heads off for a shower to wash away the night before. When she finally gets to access her phone there are many messages from her mother and the tone concerns Poppy. The call she makes gives her some shocking news her sister India is dead! How could this have happened? The two sisters may not have been close in recent years but she is her sister and Poppy finds herself heading on the next train to Brighton to be at the family home. India has taken her own life by jumping from a bridge onto a railway. But still the question will not go away as to what really happened to India to make her take her own life?
For Poppy she is not convinced by what she is being told by officialdom and decides to begin her own investigations. There are secrets out there and the more Poppy digs the more she begins to find the tangled web of secrets. Now she must access India’s laptop and she thinks there could be information that could be more than just useful. A name crops up from here and that is Jenny but who is she and what exactly is Jenny hiding? Clearly India was on to her? This is a brilliantly crafted thriller that takes the reader on a journey in and around Brighton and tackles many current themes. The Other Twin is packed with tension with some uneasy moments. A complex and addictive storyline mixed with the fresh writing talent from a new name that I am looking forward to hearing more in the future.
Thank you to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the advanced review copy.
The Other Twin by L V Hay is published by Orenda Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
How to follow the Blog Tour for The Other Twin by L V Hay
The Music Shop – Rachel Joyce
There are many out there that love Rachel Joyce and her books and the characters she creates I count myself as being a big fan. How many of you read and loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry or The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey or the wonderful collection of short stories A Snow Garden & Other Stories. Now finally the wait is over and it seems to have been a long wait. Released today (13th July) is The Music Shop (Doubleday). This is a story that will lift your soul and capture your heart.
This is a beautiful story set during the late 1980’s and as the title suggests is based around a music shop where we meet Frank who is more than just loves music it is in fact his life and his passion. Frank’s music shop has just about every possible genre of music so long as it is on vinyl that is. If you were looking for a piece of music, then Frank was your man. Just a few years before the first CD’s hit the record shops but for Frank the idea of selling music on a CD did not go well with him despite everyone around him telling him it was time to move with the times. It was the beginning of the end of vinyl as we knew it.
Then one day something happened it was just like any other day except outside Frank’s music shop there was a woman dressed in a pea green coat. Her name is Ilse Brauchmann This German woman seems a mystery to everyone including Frank but all Ilse wishes is for Frank to teach her about music. Frank is lonely and to escape this he throws himself into his music shop and making sure his customers leave with the music they are looking for. Here through the chapters of this touching and wonderful novel we find out more about Frank’s past and also about Ilse Brauchmann.
There is something warm and cosy about The Music Shop could it be the characters that Rachel Joyce creates or is it the memories we have the nostalgia aspect of the story. The past plays quite a role here and some are quite painful and for Frank the wounds do not heal easily and what was the reason for Ilse stopping by that day to the music shop. As you would expect music plays a major part in this story and in the relationship between the two characters the story. There is some humour here but also some real sadness but above all there is a message of hope. When souls are broken they need help to be put back together. Music has power to deliver on many fronts it can bring hope and it can heal. As the words to the song goes “Music was my first love and it will be my last.” Fans of Rachel Joyce will delight in this tender, wonderful and uplifting novel and just is just so beautifully written. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Thank you to Alison Barrow for the advanced review copy of The Music Shop
The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce is published by Doubleday on 13th July and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.