“Jazz was about the spaces between notes. It was about what happened when you listened to the thing inside you. The gaps and the cracks. Because that was where life really happened, when you were brave enough to free-fall.”
Set in late 80s, this is the story of Frank, a man with a passion for vinyl who opens a record shop — a dying business on a rapidly deteriorating dead-street in London. Unity Street also serves as a home to a host of other quirky shop owners — a tattoo artist, a baker, two funeral directors, and a former priest selling religious iconography. Together they form a community — or a band of misfit friends — that take care of each other, while refusing to betray their ideals, and struggling to keep their businesses afloat amidst changing economies and big developers.
Frank is an endearing character. He gained his love and knowledge of music from his bohemian mother in a very unusual childhood. And while he himself tries to keep relationships at arm’s length to avoid being hurt, he has the strange ability to intuitively detect the precise musical composition that a customer needs in order to heal their own emotional crisis. Frank transforms a Chopin-loving customer when he insists that he listens to Aretha Franklin. And he unknowingly saves his banker-friend’s marriage when he sends him home with a copy of Shalamar. Frank is a musical therapist, of sorts.
And then along comes the catalyst of change — the mysterious and unavailable woman in green, who enters his life and turns it upside down.
This is the story of the resilience of ordinary people on the cusp of change. This is the story of personal transformations that occur when ordinary people are faced with life-altering transitions.
And this is definitely a story for anyone that shares the author’s passion for music and storytelling. Intertwined with the Unity Street drama, Joyce gives us a series of flashbacks that give us insight into Franks’s world of music and musicians. We learn about Beethoven, Vivaldi, Miles Davis and a host of other composers and musicians, and the stories that shaped their music.
Why do I love this book? One quote sums it all up:
“Vinyl had a life of its own. All you could do was wait.”
And like a vinyl record, this story is told in discreet segments that are connected by moments of beautiful silence. And it is in those moments of silence, in the anticipation of what is to come next, that the story slowly reveals itself, one track at a time. It ebbs and flows, and quietly settles into your soul without you even realizing it.
As Frank’s mother once explained to him, “The silence at the beginning of a piece of music is always different from the silence at the end.” So enjoy the silence at the beginning, at the end, and all the spaces in between.
Click below to find a copy of this delightful story and make sure and download Rachel Joyce’s music list on spotify to accompany your read: