Rachel Joyce’s fourth novel The Music Shop revolves around the same themes that set Joyce apart from other authors since her debut The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, namely the courage and dignity of ordinary people and the importance and strength of community in the face of adversity.
The story of Frank is set in 1988. Frank, haunted by his past, has a talent for helping people through his love of music. Suddenly he finds himself, on the one hand, battling with record companies for his refusal to stock CDs in his beloved vinyl shop.
On the other hand he is fighting a big development company from redeveloping Unity Street where he and a band of loveable characters, live and work.
Some of the more memorable characters are Kit, painfully awkward and naïve; Maud, a tattooist suffering deeply from unrequited love; Father Anthony, selling relics but troubled by his faith, and the Williams brothers, twins who never leave each other’s side.
In a series of flashbacks we also meet Peg, Frank’s bohemian mother, whose emotional unavailability may go some way to explaining Frank’s own personal demons.
The flashbacks also serve for introducing both Frank (in his childhood) and us to a plethora of information about music.
Music and how Joyce presents it to us is what makes this book so special, and her knowledge and passion for it is at the forefront as she takes us on a musical tour de force.
We learn a little of the back stories of composers and musicians such as Vivaldi, Handel, Aretha Franklin, Nick Drake and The Ramones.
We are introduced to new ways of thinking about their music, and what to listen out for.
The appearance of Ilse Brauchmann outside Frank’s vinyl shop, wearing her pea green coat, marks a change of direction in the lives of all the residents and shopkeepers of Unity Road. Music, love and hope are what hold these people together. Together they hope to survive.
We really enjoyed reading The Music Shop and all the little musical adventures it took us on.
- The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce is published by Doubleday (hardback £14.99, paperback £6.99). Buy it here
Listen while you read: Find specially collated The Music Shop playlists to listen to while you read by following these links (you will need to sign up to Spotify if you do not already have a Spotify account):
The Music Shop playlist: bit.ly/TheMusicShopPlaylist