Music Shop (Joyce)

The Music Shop 
Rachel Joyce, 2018
Random House
320 pp.

A love story and a journey through music, the exquisite and perfectly pitched new novel from the bestselling author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy

It is 1988.

On a dead-end street in a run-down suburb there is a music shop that stands small and brightly lit, jam-packed with records of every kind. Like a beacon, the shop attracts the lonely, the sleepless, and the adrift; Frank, the shop’s owner, has a way of connecting his customers with just the piece of music they need.

Then, one day, into his shop comes a beautiful young woman, Ilse Brauchmann, who asks Frank to teach her about music. Terrified of real closeness, Frank feels compelled to turn and run, yet he is drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with eyes as black as vinyl.

But Ilse is not what she seems, and Frank has old wounds that threaten to reopen, as well as a past it seems he will never leave behind. Can a man who is so in tune with other people’s needs be so incapable of connecting with the one person who might save him?

The journey that these two quirky, wonderful characters make in order to overcome their emotional baggage speaks to the healing power of music—and love—in this poignant, ultimately joyful work of fiction. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—London, England, UK
Awards—Tinniswood Award
Currently—Gloucestershire, England

Rachel Joyce is a British author. She has written plays for BBC Radio Four, and jointly won the 2007 Tinniswood Award for her To Be a Pilgrim.

Her debut novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, was on the longlist for the 2012 Man Booker Prize. In December 2012, she was awarded the "New Writer of the Year" award by the National Book Awards for the novel. Her second novel, Perfect, was published in 2013 to critical acclaim. The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, a companion novel to Harold Fry, was released in 2015.

She is married to actor Paul Venables, and lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and four children. (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 8/18/2015.)

Book Reviews
Warmhearted, unusual and romantic, Rachel Joyce evokes the emotional power of your favorite record while underlining the importance of that forever-threatened little shop down a side street where music happens.… Joyce’s gift is in using simple language to convey profound observations on human nature.
Times (UK)

Rachel Joyce has established a reputation for novels that celebrate the dignity and courage of ordinary people and the resilience of the human spirit.… But what really elevates The Music Shop is Joyce’s detailed knowledge of—and passion for—music.
Guardian (UK)

The Music Shop is an unabashedly sentimental tribute to the healing power of great songs, and Joyce is hip to greatness in any key.… [The novel] captures the sheer, transformative joy of romance—"a ballooning of happiness." Joyce’s understated humor … offers something like the pleasure of A. A. Milne for adults. She has a kind of sweetness that’s never saccharine, a kind of simplicity that’s never simplistic.… I wouldn’t change a single note. Rachel Joyce, if music be the food of love, write on!
Ron Charles - Washington Post

This lovely novel is as satisfying and enlightening as the music that suffuses its every page.
Boston Globe

Joyce has a knack for quickly sketching characters in a way that makes them stick.… This is a touching, sometimes funny book about surviving change, the power of music and the importance of having a community—wacky or not. As with all of Joyce’s books, it will surprise you.
Minneapolis Star Tribune

An unforgettable story of music, loss and hope. Fans of High Fidelity, meet your next quirky love story. Vinyl fans, hold on to your turntables—Joyce’s latest is a buoyant homage to the healing power of music well-played.

Magical.… Joyce has a winner in this deceptively simple love story.… Joyce’s odes to music … and the notion that the perfect song can transform one’s life make this novel a triumph.
Publishers Weekly

[Joyce] continues to enchant and break hearts with her lovable misfits trying to survive in a modern world determined to pass them by. Irresistible. —Beth Andersen, formerly with Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI
Library Journal

Whether on foot, as in her novel The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, or track by track, on this unlikely musical odyssey, Joyce excels in enveloping readers in epic journeys of lost connections and loving reunions

Joyce sets up a charming cast of characters, and her spirals into the sonic landscapes of brilliant musicians are delightful, casting a vivid backdrop for the quietly desperate romance between Frank and Ilse. From nocturnes to punk, this musical romance is ripe for filming.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for The Music Shop … then take off on your own:

1. What does the demise of vinyl albums represent to Frank, literally and figuratively? What is it about CDs he despises: why does he consider them "toys"?

2. Frank tells a CD salesman that the point of vinyl records is that they are fragile. Why does he see that as important when it comes to music? Can the same insight be made about paper books vs. electronic ones?

3. Frank observes that "When a man has the passion to stand up for something crazy, it makes other problems in people's lives seem more straightforward." What does he mean by that, and does that observation have relevance to your own life?

4. Which member of Frank's shop "crew" most won your affection and why?

5. Joyce writes about Frank that he "was very much a single man." His only need seems to be the shop: "it was safer to stay uninvolved." How else would you describe Frank?

6. And in walks (so to speak) Ilse. What painful secrets is she carrying.

7. In what way does "community" act as the catalyst for change in the novel? Talk about the ways in which the characters come to grips with their fears and undergo transformation. What does personal change require of people? Have you ever undergone a transformative experience?

8. One of the overarching themes of The Music Shop is the capacity for art, in this case music, to heal. How so? Do other forms of art heal the wounded? What, then, can we say for the role of art in civilization?

9. How do you feel about the book's ending? Improbable? Predictable? Satisfying … or not?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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