A heartwarming novel that makes you smile while reading it.
“He was perfectly fine with emotions,
so long as they belonged to other people.”
We meet Frank, a gentle bear of a man. Forty and single, his unorthodox upbringing has made him LOVE music, fear intimacy, and know how to listen. He is very patient, and he has boundless empathy. His late mother, Peg, left her house and all her estate to strangers. To Frank, she bequeathed her extensive record collection and her Dansette Major record player.
“Frank knew what people needed even when they didn’t know it themselves”
Frank has the uncanny ability to just know what you need to hear. He diagnoses emotions and finds the perfect music just for you. Always on vinyl – Frank doesn’t believe in CDs. He employs a clumsy yet endearing young assistant named Kit. “Frank found that if you treated him like a young terrier, sending him out for regular walks and occupying him with easy tasks, he was less liable to cause serious damage”.
The story is set in the late 1980s and is located in a decaying side street populated by eccentrics and loners. There is Father Anthony, an ex-priest who sells religious trinkets, Maud, a female tattoo artist (who has Frank’s name tattooed underneath her bra strap), a Polish baker, two brothers who run a funeral parlour, an elderly lady and her dog, and a pub called “England’s Glory”.
“He couldn’t put away the loneliness that swallowed him.”
One ordinary day turned extraordinary when a young woman in a green coat faints outside Frank’s music shop. “There was something about her that was both fragile and incredibly strong”. The day that Ilse Brauchmann came to Unity Street, the dynamic of the street was forever changed. Ilse is thirty. She wears a pea-green coat, she has a delightful German accent, vast dark eyes, and ‘always‘ wears gloves.
Unity Street is being targeted by property developers. The misfits who live there maintain that if they rally together they can be strong enough to see the street through this time of adversity.
I’m not going to tell you any more about the story. Suffice it to say that decrepit as it was, the author made Unity Street a place where you want to live – if only to get to know the wonderful assortment of people who inhabit it.
It is a love story, but not in the traditional sense. It is a book that makes you laugh and then, minutes later, weep. Events near the end of the book will make you verklempt. I loved this book and anticipate recommending it to everyone I know.
The message, or moral, to this story was summed up nicely in this sentence “The human adventure is worth it, after all.” Rachel Joyce has never failed me yet.
Music playlist for the novel.Click on this link ONLY if you have already read this great novel.
Rachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Perfect, and The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy.
She is also the author of a short story collection, A Snow Garden & Other Stories. She is the award-winning writer of over 30 original afternoon plays and classic adaptations for BBC Radio 4.
Rachel Joyce lives with her family in Gloucestershire.