Friday, August 15, 2014

The Thrill of it all by Joseph O'Connor

At college in 1980s Luton, Robbie Goulding, an Irish-born teenager, meets the elusive Fran Mulvey, an orphaned Vietnamese refugee. Together they form a band. Joined by cellist Sarah-Thérèse Sherlock and her twin brother Seán on drums, The Ships in the Night set out to chase fame. But the story of this makeshift family is haunted by ghosts from the past.

Spanning 25 years, The Thrill of it All rewinds and fast-forwards through an evocative soundtrack of struggle and laughter. Infused with blues, ska, classic showtunes, New Wave and punk, using interviews, lyrics, memoirs and diaries, the tale stretches from suburban England to Manhattan's East Village, from Thatcher-era London to the Hollywood Bowl, from the meadows of the Glastonbury Festival to a wintry Long Island, culminating in a Dublin evening in July 2012, a night that changes everything.

A story of loyalties, friendship, the call of the muse, and the beguiling shimmer of teenage dreams, this is a warm-hearted, funny and deeply moving novel for anyone that's ever loved a song.

O'Connor is one of the best writers on the planet right now.  He's clearly a music geek, so he's won me over already and this is a great, fun to read.

So hat have we got?  A fictional rock memoir - unusual, challenging beast, and I think O'Connor pulls it off.  A major part of the appeal of music memoirs is the name-dropping, the 'war stories' and of course esoteric trivia that every music fan wants.  Main character Robbie Goulding supports Brian Wilson, drinks with Elvis Costello, visits Patti Smith at her hone.  Of course in your own head you know that never happened - because he doesn't exist. But as a fictional, vicarious avatar to the inaccessible world of musical magic kingdom it's a was into through the portal usually reserved for A-listers and the occasional Rolling Stone Journalist.. 

O'Connor's deep Irish roots are both a great asset and an occasional handicap.  The spectre of Roddy Doyle's The Commitments will always haunt this.  You cant deny that one.  He doesn't wear his Irish culture lightly, and sometimes it's a simple crutch and a cheap gimmick. 

Howeverrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, this is the wonderful, playful and inventive book - the use of language which springs from Ireland's bilingual culture is employed to devastating effect.- O'Connor is a maestro who wrings unexpected depths from the English language - like Hendrix squeezed God's very soul from his guitar. 

Anyone who enjoys rock will like this.  And it's a change from the usual suspects like Tom Stoppard, etc.  I loved this one and you will too.  TwaaaaaaaanG!!!!

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