For me I found When The Music Stops a beautiful, poignant surprise. When I was approached to read and review this new novel from award winning novelist Joe Heap, from its description I guessed I would really like it. However I underestimated the subtle emotional depth and beauty of the narrative that is so skillfully enhanced by its structure. I also underestimated the impact it would have on me.
When The Music Stops is the story of Ella who has known Robert since childhood. Sensitively told through snapshots of Ella’s life it portrays these two characters as ‘people whose lives are so tangled up. Like two trees that grew too close together and their roots got all...’. The metaphor is symbolically never finished.
Spanning decades from pre-World War Two to London during the swinging sixties and beyond, Ella and Robert’s story starts in Glasgow. I’m from just outside Glasgow and I have to say that I absolutely love Joe Heap’s portrayal of a Glaswegian childhood. Even though Ella is almost 50 years older than me, there are elements of Ella’s childhood that really resonate with me. For example I felt so nostalgic when Robert gave Ella a block of tablet. Tablet is a part of almost every Scottish childhood as relatives make it for you and friends of relatives make it for you and so on. It also made me smile as Ella’s mum made tablet just like my mum.
However as Ella’s story progressed, it took me in an emotional direction I never expected. And Ella as a character really surprised me – as well as the story, she also went in a direction I never expected. I’m not going to lie – Ella shocked me. I didn’t like it but I admired her for it.
When The Music Stops is about the relationship of two people throughout the course of their life; but it is so much more than Ella and Robert’s tangled relationship. It is also a beautiful and hopeful portrayal of death, grief and survival. Yes it is a story of lost love but paradoxically it is also a celebration of life. This had a profound impact on me and I found it extremely comforting.
Thank you Joe Heap for writing such a subtle yet powerful and truly beautiful novel. I also feel the need to comment once again on the structure of this novel as it is so clever. In my view it really helped drive the emotional depth of Ella story. However I would of also have loved to read the same story from Robert’s point of view. He is a character that makes me so curious.
Thank you also Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to read and review When The Music Stops as part of its blog tour.
When The Music Stops was published by HarperCollins on Thursday 29th October 2020. It is a truly beautiful read that will take you away from the stresses of lockdown living ; as I feel this is something we all need at the moment I urge you to read this book.
To also read the reviews from my fellow book bloggers also on the blog tour, please see below.
Happy reading everyone! 🙂