By Rachel Joyce
Actor and novelist Rachel Joyce has composed a unique opus with The Music Shop. Set mostly in 1988 it is the story of music shop owner Frank who resists all formats other than vinyl. As well as the discs, Frank also dispenses a subtle kind of counselling and has a curious knack for knowing what each customer needs, and for locating the relevant album in spite of any recognisable sense of organisation in his run-down premises. One day he meets the enigmatic Ilse and agrees to her request to teach her about music.
This is a concerto with operatic overtones, symphonic themes and the occasional punkish punch. The plot is piccolo thin, but successfully sustained, and featuring some virtuoso twists.
The protagonist’s knowledge of music supports an extra level of amusement, but what really shines through is an author’s actor’s eye for the inner lives of characters, their motivations and lines of action, in order to create tension gradually without giving the game away. It builds to a somewhat theatrical conclusion.
The reading experience is much more middle-of-the-road easy listening rather than progressive stadium rock but it is entertaining, engaging and musically educational.