On learning how to listen and how to feel

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

Everyone knows the power of music to transform lives don’t they? It’s why music is so important. It’s why it’s so sad that when governments through the ages look for things to cut they cut the arts (including music) simply because the benefits are not so easy to quantify and rank in league tables and statistics. Music makes us though, and not just for the musicians. Music feeds us, and teaches us how to live.

This is what it’s like in Rachel Joyce’s book about a man, Frank, and his music shop. With echoes of magical realism, Frank doesn’t just sell records but is able to find the music that his customers need before they know that they need it. Then the lady with the pea-green coat walks into her shop and into his life and persuades him to teach him about music.

This is the beginning of a love story to cross the years. The story begins, and for the most part takes place, in the late 80s at a time when vinyl records are being left forgotten by onset of CDs. By the time the novel (though maybe not the story) concludes some 21 years later CDs have come and gone, and vinyl is actually making a resurgence. The question for Frank and Ilse is this too late for their relationship?

This is a beautiful, gently-written story, with a quirky and supportive (both metaphorically and literally) cast of characters from the rundown parade of shops in Union Street that teaches us what it is that is important about music and why we need it in our lives. And by in our lives I mean really in our lives and not just streamed to us via Spotify or Apple Music…

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