The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce
Until I picked up The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce, I had been spending a lot of my reading time with suspenseful, gripping psychological thrillers -you know, all the “girl,” “wife,” or “woman” books-The Girl on The Train, The Wife Between Us, The Woman in Cabin Ten. But this charming novel set in 1980s suburban London was a welcome change of pace-like a cool breeze after an intense thunderstorm.
The character-driven story kept me interested and intrigued, yet at the same time, soothed my soul. In addition to the music shop and its quirky inhabitants, there are the other shops on the street and their quirky owners. At the center of the story is the music shop’s owner, Frank, a lonely middle-aged man who only wants to sell vinyl,despite the growing pressure to sell CDs. Frank has a gift for “hearing” what ails his customers and knowing what records they need to heal them, often prescribing them specific tracks and artists. There is also Father Anthony, a former priest who sells religious trinkets, Maud the tattooist who is in love with Frank, and the mildly peculiar twin brothers who run the local funeral parlor. And there is a pub of course, where they all gather.
Joyce fleshes out her characters fully enough that I really cared for each of them and their rag-tag community that fights the good fight against 1980s commercialism and gentrification.
Reading this hopeful and human story made me feel as though Joyce invited me in to her parlor for a cup of tea while she told me love stories: stories of new love, of long-lost love; stories of unrequited, unpursued, and unspoken love.
The Music Shop is not only a love story about two lonely musicphiles, it is also a love story about music. Throughout the tales of her likeable and misfit characters, Joyce weaves tidbits about musicians: their loves, their lives; their triumphs and their tragedies. I learned a lot about music- from Beethoven and Berlioz, to the early days of punk rock and the Sex Pistols. For me, this was the icing on an already yummy cake.
If you are in need of a light but engaging escape filled with hope and humanity, The Music Shop may be just what the doctor ordered.