These are books that aren’t going to win literary prizes, perhaps, but they’re the kind of books that make me love reading. They touch me. They stay with me. They’re books, frankly, I wish I had written.
The Music Shop is precisely such a book. I thought I had read Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, but looking at the synopsis, I clearly have it confused with something else. So this is my first Rachel Joyce novel, and it’s simply wonderful. I can’t wait to read more.
Frank is a middle-aged bachelor in a run-down English suburb. He hates the fact that the music world is abandoning vinyl (it’s 1988), and he’s determined to save it. So he opens a record store. He also happens to have the gift of being able to tell customers exactly what they need to hear, even when they don’t know it.
One day, a well-dressed, quiet German young woman faints in front of his record store and there’s an immediate, but uneasy connection between them. Frank can’t read Ilse like he can everyone else and they begin meeting weekly for music lessons where Frank explains how music feels. It’s a passion that brings his mother’s memory back to him, because she instilled in him his passion for all genres of music and for vinyl recordings.
It seems like the rest of the book will follow a typical romantic comedy format, but almost everything I predicted while reading it turned out to be wrong, so Joyce is very careful not to let the book be that simplistic. And it definitely ends with a hysterical, rousing finale.
If you want snooty literary fiction, look elsewhere. (And I read my share of it, to be sure.) But if you love music, or you love the charm of novels like Fredrik Backman’s, you may very well adore The Music Shop, as I did.