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It is 1988. On a dead-end street in a run-down suburb there is a music shop that stands small and brightly lit, jam-packed with records of every kind. Like a beacon, the shop attracts the lonely, the sleepless, and the adrift; Frank, the shop's owner, has a way of connecting his customers with just the piece of music they need. Then, one day, into his shop comes a beautiful young woman, Ilse Brauchmann, who asks Frank to teach her about music. Terrified of real closeness, Frank feels compelled to turn and run, yet he is drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with eyes as black as vinyl. But Ilse is not what she seems, and Frank has old wounds that threaten to reopen, as well as a past it seems he will never leave behind. Can a man who is so in tune with other people's needs be so incapable of connecting with the one person who might save him? The journey that these two quirky, wonderful characters make in order to overcome their emotional baggage speaks to the healing power of music--and love--in this poignant, ultimately joyful work of fiction. Praise for The Music Shop
"Captures the sheer, transformative joy of romance."--The Washington Post "Love, friendship, and especially the healing powers of music all rise together into a triumphant crescendo. . . . This lovely novel is as satisfying and enlightening as the music that suffuses its every page."--The Boston Globe "Magnificent . . . If you love words, if you love music, if you love love, this novel] will be without question one of the year's best."--BookPage (Top Pick in Fiction)
"Joyce has a knack for quickly sketching characters in a way that makes them stick. The Music Shop] will surprise you."--Minneapolis Star Tribune "Rachel Joyce has established a reputation for novels that celebrate the dignity and courage of ordinary people and the resilience of the human spirit. . . . But what really elevates The Music Shop is Joyce's detailed knowledge of--and passion for--music."--The Guardian
A groovy kind of love
BookPage Top Pick in Fiction, January 2018
After Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, is there any other book written by any other Brit about the intersection of love and vinyl records that’s worth reading?
Why, yes, there is. And Rachel Joyce’s magnificent The Music Shop is it. Joyce, whose 2012 bestseller The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, digs deep in the crates and finds her groove in this novel of loves lost and found.
Frank—we never find out his last name, but we don’t need to, because he’s so indelible a character—is the sort of “music whisperer” that every serious record store geek aspires to be. As Frank correctly intuits, the man looking for Chopin is actually in desperate need of an Aretha Franklin infusion, while the unexpected “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber perfectly patches the Def Leppard-loving customer with a hole in her soul. It speaks volumes that Frank files Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” next to Bowie’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” and Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” After all, they’re all concept albums.
But Frank has some emotional damage himself, and his potential salvation shows up not in the stacks of wax, but unbidden one day in a green coat, passed out in front of his shop. Clearly Joyce has taken Holland-Dozier-Holland’s multimillion-selling song to heart: “You can’t hurry love / No, you just have to wait / She said love don’t come easy / It’s a game of give and take.”
Without giving away more of the plot, it’s worth noting that Joyce’s novel is intellectually and emotionally satisfying on every possible level. If you love words, if you love music, if you love love, this is 2018’s first must-read, and it will be without question one of the year’s best.