The Song Collector by Natasha Solomons – Review

Published by Sceptre

Publication date – 24 March 2016 (paperback edition)

Source – Netgalley review copy


“By the author of Mr Rosenblum’s List, this is a captivating tale of passion and music, ancient songs and nostalgia, of the ties that bind and the ones we are prepared to sever.

Fox, as the celebrated composer Harry Fox-Talbot is known, wants to be left in peace. His beloved wife has died, he’s unable to write a note of music, and no, he does not want to take up some blasted hobby.

Then one day he discovers that his troublesome four-year-old grandson is a piano prodigy. The music returns and Fox is compelled to re-engage with life – and, ultimately, to confront an old family rift.

Decades earlier, Fox and his brothers return to Hartgrove Hall after the war, determined to save their once grand home from ruin. But on the last night of 1946, the arrival of beautiful wartime singer Edie Rose tangles the threads of love and duty, which leads to a shattering betrayal.

With poignancy, lyricism and humour, Natasha Solomons tells a captivating tale of passion and music, of roots, ancient songs and nostalgia for the old ways, of the ties that bind us to family and home and the ones we are prepared to sever. Here is the story of a man who discovers joy and creative renewal in the aftermath of grief and learns that it is never too late to seek forgiveness.”

I received a copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley and this is my honest opinion of the book.

Harry Fox -Talbot, known as Fox, is grieving the loss of his beloved wife. Unable to concentrate on anything he is wandering a lonely existence through life. The music that has always accompanied him has vanished, replaced only by silence. This is troubling to both him and his family as Fox is a celebrated composer. One day his four year old grandson visits and Fox discovers he has an unbelievable talent for playing the piano. Fox suddenly finds a reason to exist as he guides Robin on his musical journey.

Sometimes you stumble across a book and start to read it, perhaps more out of curiosity than anything else, not sure what to expect. And then the book starts to work its magic on you, drawing you in, urging you to read just one more page. This is such a book.

The story switches between post war Dorset and the first year of the new Millennium and each time period progresses over a number of years. We see how Fox and his beloved wife Edie meet, how they fall for each other, of the sacrifices Fox and his family make in their attempts to save Hartgrove Hall and how Fox forges his career as a composer. We then see how Fox has to cope with death of Edie, how he has to find the strength to continue, and to put right the wrongs of the past.

This is full of evocative writing, easily drawing a portrait of post war life, full of an atmosphere of celebration, reflection, sadness, frugality and frivolity.  I loved each era, drawn into the time when Fox was a young man, then transported to the future Fox, learning to live again after the death of his wife. The grief that Fox was suffering was sensitively and realistically portrayed, not only drawing the reader to Fox but also lending a certain wistfulness to the parts of the novel set in past. There is a betrayal and a love story at the heart of this tale, and that isn’t giving anything away. We are told early on what has happened, though not directly, so the story guides us through the how and when. This story is a journey to an already known destination and the time it takes to travel the tale is an enjoyable one.

There are only a few main characters, so the book feels more intimate and personal because of it. Each character adds something to the story, be it drive the narrative along, such as Edie or Fox himself, but also to highlight character traits and faults in others, for example, Fox’s granddaughters and how they act when they interact with their grandfather.

A symphony of a story, full of rich detail and beautiful movements, it should ideally be accompanied by a CD with musical soundtrack.


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