Van has finished reading…The Song Collector by Natasha Solomons

23 Mar

Composer Harry Fox-Talbot cannot write music anymore. His beloved wife, Edie, has died and without her the music doesn’t make sense. Despite fending off his daughters’ suggestion of finding a hobby and making time to play, the notes will not come. Then, one day, left alone with his troublesome grandson he resorts to what he knows and discovers the child is a piano prodigy.

Harry’s world begins to turn again as he seeks to connect with what he has lost. The Song Collector is the story of Harry’s life and love, of passion, loss, belonging and forgiveness.

 

This is a novel that aches. It’s a minor key, the sort of thing you reach for because you know the sadness of it will resonate. The way the two timelines counterpoint serves to strengthen that sense; we know Edie’s end at the beginning, so there’s plenty that simply can’t end well when we first meet her. It’s not just about the story though. There’s the writing too. It’s emotional prose in the best way, a story lovingly-written, and that really comes to the fore in the musical descriptions (in both senses). You don’t need to be a lover of music to enjoy this book but if you are I think it’ll only heighten that enjoyment.

Natasha Solomons is an astute observer of character. I particularly enjoyed the many facets of Little Fox. The subtlety in the difference between older and younger Harry is hard to pin down but quite apparent. Perhaps it’s the general jauntiness of youth that shines through in the earlier timeline, or the naivety. Whatever it is it works splendidly (a Foxish utterance if ever I heard one) but is not limited to Harry. Regardless of era the players in Harry’s life stand distinct and vivid, and the interaction with his daughters is wonderfully pitched. It goes back to that minor key – we don’t so much see Harry as feel him.

And then there’s Robin, a child with a prodigious talent and a complete dearth of social graces. How wonderfully refreshing he is (on the page!). Through Robin Natasha Solomons brings us the best kind of humour, allowing us to laugh knowingly from the outside while this key unlocks a story, a person, a history that sings to be told.

 

The Song Collector is a fabulous book, a quiet story. It’s true, vivid, comfortable and yet urgent too. It might make you laugh, it’ll probably make you cry but I’m certain that come the coda it will leave you with a smile.

 

The Song Collector is published by Sceptre on 24th march 2016 ISBN: 9781444736410

You can find Natasha Solomons on Twitter @natashasolomons and at her website, natashasolomons.com

You can also join in the song collecting at songmap.co.uk. Discover a map of the country in songs, listen in and even upload your own. Follow on twitter @GB_Songmap.

 

My thanks to Ruby Mitchell at Sceptre for allowing me to review this book.

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