The Music Shop, Rachel Joyce, author; Steven Hartley, narrator
Like easy listening, when referring to music, this novel could be considered easy reading. It leaves you happy and contented, not anxious and concerned. What could be better than that? The beautiful descriptions of several famous pieces of classical and modern music, appearing throughout, were so enlightening. There was so much information provided in an easy offhanded way that it was simply very comfortable to take it all in.
All of the characters presented were a bit quirky and they were a delightful mix of humankind. This author has a special knack for reaching readers by getting inside the heads of her characters. Her analysis of their problems and lifestyles was right on target. The depth of her understanding of human nature and feelings is broad and touching at times.
In 1988, in a run-down looking shop, on an obscure back street, somewhere in England, we meet Frank, the proprietor of a music shop that only sells what he refers to as vinyl. He has no real knowledge of music theory, but he has a natural gift which enables him to pair customers with just the right music for their particular needs.
Frank was raised by Peg, a woman who had loose morals, which led to his lack of knowledge about the identity of his father. She refused to be called mother. As a result, Frank was a bit odd and socially, he was not very adept. He kept his distance from people, not wanting to get too involved or hurt since he had been deeply hurt in the past. His experiences with love had been painful, and his own mother, with her death and subsequent will, had made him feel rejected and unwanted. Her one gift to him was a deep knowledge and appreciation of music that went far beyond that of most people.
Although the book might be described, by some, as a bit hokey or perhaps overly melodramatic, or even hackneyed, I found it to be so tender and sweet, that I loved it in spite of its fairy tale narrative. Decades pass before the romantic desires of the two main characters are fulfilled, before two broken adults, struggling to find themselves, struggling to overcome their personal afflictions, find each other again. The beauty of the story, for me, existed in the unfailing devotion and desire that lasted and would not die with the passage of time.
The characters in the novel are so engaging. The author endears them to the reader with their odd quirks and personalities. Maude is a crude and outspoken, rude and rough around the edges female who runs a tanning salon. Father Anthony is retired. He is lonely and Frank rescues him and befriends him. Frank is a man whose growth and maturity had been stifled by a mother with emotional difficulties of her own. She short circuited his development and his life, perhaps without meaning to, but nevertheless, the effect of Peg on Frank, is devastating. Frank only wanted to be normal and to help others. He refused to move into modernity and would only carry vinyl records in his shop, even when cd’s were all the rage. He was a man of principle. Ilse is this lovely, gentle, secretive and mysterious young, German woman who arrives suddenly, almost from out of nowhere. She faints in front of the shop and is taken in and soon becomes a regular visitor. She has a knack for charming people and helps Frank solve many problems. She never wanted to be normal. Frank does not know how to deal with the feelings developing within him for this strange young woman. Kit works in the store. He seems a bit short of a full deck, and he is very clumsy. All of the interesting characters have a unique place within the pages of the book.
I loved the way the story ended so happily, just over two decades after all the characters first met each other. Their friendship was still alive and well. There seemed to be a moral to the story. Genuine concern and compassion were keys to love and happiness. Love was necessary in everyone’s life. Everyone seemed to seek it.