My Friday Post: The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

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Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

There are so many books I want to read right now and The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce is just one of them.

The Music Shop


There was once a music shop.

From the outside it looked like any shop, in any backstreet. It had no name above the door. No record display in the window. There was a homemade poster stuck to the glass. For the music you need!! Everyone welcome!! We only sell VINYL!

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

30879-friday2b56These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

Vivaldi was so famous he was like a film star. There was a time everyone wanted to hear Vivaldi, but when he died, they’d all moved on. He had nothing at the end. Do you know the saddest thing?

No, Peg.

No one went to his funeral. There was no music for Vivaldi at the end.


1988. Frank owns a music shop. It is jam-packed with records of every speed, size and genre. Classical, jazz, punk – as long as it’s vinyl he sells it. Day after day Frank finds his customers the music they need.

Then into his life walks Ilse Brauchmann.

Ilse asks Frank to teach her about music. His instinct is to turn and run. And yet he is drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with her pea-green coat and her eyes as black as vinyl. But Ilse is not what she seems. And Frank has old wounds that threaten to re-open and a past he will never leave behind …


One of the quotes on the back cover says that this is ‘a beautiful novel, a tonic for the soul and a complete joy to read.’ I really hope it will be just that.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

A – Z of TBRs: U, V and W

I’m now up to U, V and W in my A – Z of TBRs, a series of posts in which I take a fresh look at some of my TBRs to inspire me to read more of them, or maybe to decide not to bother reading them after all. These are books I bought full of enthusiasm to read each one – and mainly because I wanted to finish books I was already reading, they have sat on the shelves ever since. And then other books claimed my attention.

U V W books

– is for The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joycea novel I bought five years ago. It appealed to me because it’s about a man, Harold Fry, who walks from Kingsbridge in South Devon to Berwick-upon Tweed in Northumberland and I liked the idea of following his journey – on paper, that is.

Harold receives a letter from an old friend who is dying from cancer, writing to say goodbye. Feeling he can’t say what he wants to say in a letter he decides he needs to speak to her in person and phones the hospice where she is a patient:

‘Tell her Harold Fry is on his way. All she has to do is wait. Because I am going to save her, you see. I will keep walking and she must keep living. ‘ (page 28)


Harold Fry was a tall man who moved through life with a stoop, as if expecting a low beam, or a screwed-up paper missile, to appear out of nowhere. The day he was born his mother had looked at the bundle in her arms, and felt appalled. She was young, with a peony bud mouth and a husband who had seemed a good idea before the war and a bad one after it. A child was the last thing she wanted or needed. The boy learned quickly that the best way to get along in life was to keep a low profile; to appear absent even when present. He played with neighbours’ children, or at least he watched them from the edges. At  school he avoided attention to the point of appearing stupid. Leaving home when he was sixteen, he had set out on his own, until one night he caught Maureen’s eye across a dance hall and fell wildly in love. It was the brewery that had brought the couple to Kingsbridge. (page 36)

V – is for The Various Flavours of Coffee by Anthony Capella. I’ve had this book for nearly 10 years and started it not long after I bought it. My book mark is at the start of chapter twenty seven, so I’ve read about a third of the book. I can’t remember now why I stopped reading it. If I am going to read it I’ll have to start again.

It’s historical fiction and a love story beginning in 1896 in London where a struggling poet, Robert Wallis, accepts a commission from a mysterious coffee merchant, Samuel Pinker, to compose a ‘vocabulary of coffees’ that can capture their elusive fragrances. Robert is then dispatched to Africa in search of the world’s finest coffee.

In this extract Robert is considering how to describe black coffee beans:

… ‘these ones over here are as black as despair, whereas these are as golden as virtue -‘

‘No, no, no,’ Pinker interjected. ‘this is far too poetical. One man’s despair is another man’s gloom, and who is to say whether gloom and despair are the same colour?’

I saw his point. ‘Then we shall have to decide on words for several different shades of black.’

‘Exactly, sir – that is my purpose entirely.’

‘Hmm.’ I considered. It was, when one thought about it a rather vexing issue. ‘We shall begin,’ I declared, ‘by fixing the very blackest form of black there is.’

‘Very well.’

A silence fell upon us. It was in fact, quite hard to think of a word to describe the pure blackness of the darkest beans. ‘The pure black of a cow’s nose, I said at last. Pinker made a face. ‘Or the glistening black of a slug at dawn -‘

‘Too fanciful’ And if I may say so, hardly appetising.’

‘The black of a bible.’

‘Too objectionable.’

‘The black of a moonless night.’

Pinker tutted. (page 38)

and so it goes on, until they finally settled for ‘jet’.

W– is for The Water Horse by julia Gregson, a book I’ve had for nine years. This is a historical fiction based on the true story of a young Welsh woman, Jane Evans, a Welsh woman who in 1853 ran off with Welsh cattle drovers and volunteered as a nurse with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea.

The title refers to the story of the Water Horse

‘And God help you if you find the Water Horse,’ said Eleri, ‘he looks so lovely and he’s deadly.’

‘Do you believe in him?’ Catherine was interested at last. ‘I think about him every time I see the sea. ‘

‘No.’ She put down her pipe. ‘No, I don’t. but I do believe he shows us what we fear.’


‘Well, there he is: beautiful, extraordinary. he stands placidly by the water’s edge. We try to mount him, and sometimes you can ride him and feel so powerful, so wonderful, and the next time he bolts back into the sea with you and you die a horrible and frightening death. What could be clearer?’ Eleri’s eyes were shining in the dusk. ‘It’s our fear of being out of control. He’s the one who tells you, stick with the ordinary, don’t move, everything else is dangerous and nothing possible, but the problem is that if you fear everything you can’t control, you’ll never do anything that matters to you.’ (pages 58-9)

Looking at them this morning the one that appeals most is The Water Horse.

What do you think? Do you fancy any of them? Would you ditch any of them?

Sunday Selection, or what to read next?

This morning I finally finished reading A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel. I enjoyed it, but it was with a sense of release that I read the final pages, because at 872 pages it’s taken me over a month to read it and I’m looking forward to reading something shorter, snappier and more succinct. I’ll write my thoughts about this mammoth book on the French Revolution later on.

So, I picked up Wycliffe and the Cycle of Death by W J Burley, which is much shorter at 192 pages and easier to read – and to handle. It’s a murder mystery about the death of Matthew Glynn a respectable bookseller.

But I’m also thinking ahead about what to read next. I have started The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox, but I’m thinking of leaving it for now as it too is another long book. So, the possibilities are:

Fresh from the Country by Miss Read, (219 pages) about Anna Lacey plunged into her first teaching job in London. I’ve read most of Miss Read’s Thrush Green and Fairacre novels, but this one is new to me. Dora Jessie Saint, who wrote under the pen-name Miss Read, died earlier this month at the age of 98. She wrote over 30 books, gentle and unsentimental observations of English country and village life and I’ve loved each one I’ve read.

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. This was my face-to-face book group choice this month, but I missed the meeting because it was the same day as our grandson’s birthday, and I hadn’t read the book anyway. I’d like to read it, though, because the group disagreed about the book – with some people disliking it and others who thought it was good. Maurice and Sarah had begun a love affair during the London Blitz and then Sarah had broken off the relationship. Maurice, driven by obsessive jealousy and grief sends a private detective to find out the truth. It would also be good to read it as it fits into the Classics Challenge.

And looking further ahead, I’ve been trying to decide whether or not to get any of the ‘free’ books offered in newbooks magazine, which arrived recently. I’ve narrowed my choice down to two books:

The Somnambulist by Essie Fox. This is set in Victorian England. Seventeen year old Phoebe takes a job as companion to Mr Samuel’s wife and encounters betrayal, loss and regret as she tries to adjust to life away from home.

The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, a debut novel by Wendy Jones. In 1924 Wilfred lives in rural Pembrokeshire where he runs the local funeral parlour. He fantasises about Grace, the daughter of the local doctor and on the spur of the moment he proposes to her. But then he realises that this is a mistake and tries to undo it.

Another book that has caught my eye recently is:

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, a debut novel by Rachel Joyce. I saw this in a local bookshop and nearly bought it then. It’s about Harold who walks from his home in Devon to Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland to see a dying friend. It’s the idea of a journey along the length of England that I find appealing, but the thought of the friend dying from cancer may be too close to home.

One thing is certain, I’ll never run out of books I’d like to read.