ONE TO WATCH OUT FOR: The Song Collector by Natasha Solomons

Review published on January 4, 2016.

Life nowadays means I rarely have the luxury of reading more by the same author – the quest is to find the next bright young thing. So it came as something of a surprise to find I’ve read three of Ms Solomons’ books to date. I absolutely adored The Gallery of Vanished Husbands and can’t understand why it didn’t gain more of a reputation – why didn’t it make it onto prize shortlists, or even long lists? Perhaps I missed them but definitely worth doubling back for.

Mr Rosenblum’s List was, shall we say, not to my taste, with an element of whimsy that was a let down after the virtuosity of Husbands. So I’m delighted to report that The Song Collector had me once more totally entranced.

Fox is a celebrated composer in his twilight days mourning the loss of beloved wife, Edie. Hartgrove Hall is the family home of the Fox-Talbots, a once grand country house scheduled for demolition just after WWII. Except the three brothers, George, Jack and Little Fox (Harry) decide to dig in and try to save it and the  estate. All well and good except that Fox eats, sleeps and dreams music so becoming a horny handed son of the soil isn’t really among his ambitions.

Into this promising scenario enter two ‘complications’, albeit 50 years apart: the love of his life, unfortunately already married to his elder brother, and secondly, a child prodigy of a grandson who, at the tender age of 5 is obsessed with the piano, able to remember and interpret classical works in their entirety.

Enough of the plot and more of the talent that takes you quietly by the hand and introduces you to such brilliantly portrayed characters, nuanced conversations and feelings, a true sense of place. Time and again I marvelled at the way Natasha Solomons unveils a quite complex plot with unerring confidence that makes it all click into place so logically.

If the rest of 2016 delivers books of a similar calibre then my reading time will be a delight. In the meantime, I can’t recommend Song Collector highly enough. I will be extremely disappointed on Ms Solomons’ behalf if it doesn’t appear on several shortlists.

Guy Pringle
Jan 4th, 2016
Personal 5
Group 5

The Song Collector by Natasha Solomons
Sceptre pbk Mar 2016

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