When I read and reviewed Call Me A Star Girl by bestselling and award-winning author Louise Beech, I absolutely loved it. So when I was approached to review Louise’s latest novel Nothing Else, I jumped at the chance. Yes, I have only read two of Louise’s books (I really do need to read more), but I can’t get over what a diverse writer she is. Both novels are poignant and full of emotion, yet Call Me A Star Girl is a psychological thriller, whereas Nothing Else is a haunting family story.
Specifically Nothing Else is a story about two sisters who are torn apart by tragedy and the cruelty of circumstance. This aspect of the story really touched me as I have a sister who is essentially my best friend with my sister and I being similar ages to Heather and Harriet, the protagonists in this tender novel. The fact that Heather and Harriet are torn apart as young children and victims of the era in which they grew up in struck a painful chord with me.
Nothing Else is also a beautiful portrayal of ‘the power of the arts to uplift and transport…‘ as both sisters use the power of music to survive their traumatic childhoods.
The eldest sister Heather continues to use her music throughout her life to survive her brutal separation from her sister 37 years ago, a cruel mystery that has haunted her all her life. She is now a piano teacher and professional musician. She is also amicably divorced from her ex husband as throughout her marriage she always held a part of herself back, scared of being hurt again. Now her quiet life revolves around her piano playing, music and the memory of one particular song, Nothing Else, a song she wrote as a child to comfort her younger sister as their domineering father inflicted brutal violence on their mother. When the violence started Heather and Harriet used to play the song together on the piano to drown out the punches.
Nothing Else is an emotional narrative with the second half of the novel having more of an impact on me that the first half. For me, the second half is when the story really gets moving, especially as there are a few poignant and emotional twists that I did not see coming. However I did feel quite frustrated with some of the characters that were supposed to love and protect the two young girls, specifically their mother. Yes I understand she was abused by her husband, but as more of the mother’s personal story is revealed as the novel progresses, I feel she could have done more to escape the tragic events that tore her family apart. Likewise I was frustrated with the character of Bill. Personally I found him a selfish coward.
My favourite character in this novel is Mr Hibbert, the girls neighbour and piano teacher. He is a lovely and uplifting character who demonstrates to Heather and Harriet the true power of music.
Like Call Me Star Girl, in her new novel Louise Beech skilfully uses music to enhance the story. I have never purposely listened to Chopin before but as I write this blog post I have Nocturne No 2 playing in the background. It is truly beautiful. I realise that I have heard it before and to some small degree, I do know this music. This is a novel that has also reminded me of how much I love songs such as Vincent by Don McLean and Annie’s Song by John Denver.
Thank you to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of the blog tour of Nothing Else. Thank you also to Louise Beech for moving me with another poignant narrative.
To follow the blog tour, please see below.
Nothing Else is published by Orenda Books on Thursday 23 June, available in paperback and eBook.