“The Music Shop,” by Rachel Joyce, is the story of Frank, “a gentle bear of a man” who owns a run-down music shop on Unity Street. Frank sells music as therapy and only on vinyl. This in 1988 when records are being pushed out for the flashier CD. But like vinyl, Frank is a throwback and for him music is serious business.
Frank’s love of music came from his eccentric mother Peg. The two of them would lie on the floor and experience whatever new album arrived at their white house by the sea. From Peg, he learns Bach died from a botched eye operation and Vivaldi had no music at his funeral. Child Frank adored his quirky mom but her parade of lovers and unconventional child rearing ends up confusing teenage Frank. While he loves their music lessons, he yearns for a “normal life.” Peg’s untimely death gives Frank plenty of reasons to sabotage any relationship he attempts to have in the future and he flees the life he knew with Peg to open his music shop.Frank is happily ensconced in his world of records and headphones, when Ilse Brauchmann appears on the other side of the shop’s window then promptly disappears because she’s fainted. When he rushes out to help her, she opens her eyes and Frank gets “a look of such radiance and intensity he could not see how he would ever get away from it.” And so begins the dance of Frank and Ilse, each one wary of the other, but to us (and the rest of the motley crew on Unity Street), so plainly in love.
(A quick aside on this motley crew. From exclamation prone Kit to spikey Maude, these characters are a true delight.)
What brings Frank and Ilse together is a shared passion for music. Frank loves talking about it and Ilse loves listening to Frank talk about it. And I can’t blame Ilse because I loved listening to Frank talk about music, too! He describes jazz as “…the spaces between notes…The gaps and the cracks. Because that was where life really happened, when you were brave enough to free-fall.” Of “Beata Viscera” by Pérotin, “It’s just a single human voice but it feels like stepping onto a bird’s back.” And for James Brown’s “Ain’t It Funky Now,” “It’s Mohammad Ali doing rope-a-dope with George Foreman.” Yes, I found myself falling in love with Frank right along with Ilse. But then again, this book had me at music.
Most everything we learn is from Frank’s point-of-view so Ilse remains as mysterious to us as she does to Frank. His friends have dozens of theories about her – none are true but what fun it is listening to their speculations. Yet this lack of Ilse information doesn’t stop us from knowing that she has fallen for Frank. He just doesn’t realize it. When you think these two lonely souls will finally come together, the conflict comes like a needle being dragged across a record. But since this IS a love story, Frank and Ilse get their happily-ever-after ending that is naturally set to music.
I kept closing the book and Googling all the music to see if the descriptions matched my expectations. And they did! Do you find yourself researching things you read about in a novel before, during and after?
Thank you again for your time!
Lynn Alexander is a recently published author and long-time book, food, cat and college football lover (Go Green!). Her career journey started in upstate New York, writing and recording commercials for radio. She moved to Venice, Florida to manage a restaurant which led her to Naples and Marco in 2002, where she currently books weddings and events at the Marco Beach Ocean Resort. Alexander is a Leadership Marco 2015 alum which fed her passion for history and learning. A butterfly at parties but a loner at heart, she loves nothing more than baking yummy desserts then retreating to a quiet corner to read.