Thank you for joining me for my stop on the Blog Tour for The Choir on Hope Street by Annie Lyons.
I have a lovely Guest Post from Annie Lyons as she talks about Music versus Books, thank you so much Annie.
If you read on you can also see my review for this fab book!
First of all let's take a look at the description for the book...
About the book
The best things in life happen when you least expect them
Nat’s husband has just said the five words no one wants to hear – ‘I don’t love you anymore’.
Picture-perfect Caroline has to welcome her estranged mother into her house after she was forced out of an exclusive nursing home.
Living on the same street these two women couldn’t be more different. Until the local community centre is threatened, galvanising Caroline and the people of Hope Street into action. But when the only way to save the centre is to form a community choir – no one, least of all Nat, expects the results…
This spring, hope is coming!
Music versus books
There’s a game that my family like to play from time to time and it begins with a question, usually posed by one of the children towards the end of the day, when they are trying to avoid going to bed.
If you could only have books or music in your life, which would you choose?
I know. They’re clever little blighters because there’s nothing my husband and I like to chat about more than these two subjects and it’s a really good question because it’s not as straightforward as it first appears.
The obvious answer should be books. We have both spent a lifetime devouring books and we both earn a living from them. We met whilst working in a bookshop on Charing Cross Road - the London mecca of book-selling - and decided that we quite liked each other whilst discussing books at the bookshop reading group. We both love many of the same novels (Any Human Heart, One Hundred Years of Solitude, the complete Famous Five series) but also have differing tastes too. He loves The Catcher in the Rye. I think Holden Caulfield deserves a slap.
So when our children assert that the world is going to end (they love to add a little jeopardy to proceedings) and we have to choose one or the other, my brain says books. Books are brain-food after all.
But then, I look over at my husband, who is doing his confused, wincing face (quite endearing actually). He’ll say just two words.
A sharp intake of breath. He’s got me. I mean Anne Tyler’s got all the words and David Nicholls has all the wry humour but Stevie Wonder? He’s got it all – the words, the humour, the funky clavinet playing, the unique drumming style, the unbelievable harmonica solos – all delivered with pure, unadulterated love. I’m mad about books but they don’t exactly make me want to get on down.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. What about Ella Fitzgerald? Bruno Mars? David Bowie? Elbow? Haircut 100? The list is endless. As Benny and Bjorn so wisely asked, ‘Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty, what would life be?’ The answer is of course, very quiet. And very dull.
This is one of the reasons why I wanted to write a book with music at its heart and how The Choir on Hope Street came to be because music plays such fundamental role in my own life.
Years ago, one of my best friends was staying with us. He turned to me at one point and said.
‘You know, you’re always singing.’
We laughed because it’s true. There’s hardly a moment in my life when I’m not singing along with the radio or humming a tune, which is caught in my brain. I find it endlessly comforting.
When my children were very small and I struggled with the stay-at-home intensity of it all, I turned to the radio for reassurance or put music on for the children and me to dance or sing along to. It helped a lot. You can listen to music even when you’re tired.
This isn’t so easy with the written word although I did manage ten years happily devouring picture books. Sharing The Gruffalo with your child, even if it’s for the fifth time that day is pretty marvellous, particularly if you each narrate a different character. My Gruffalo voice is actually rather brilliant if I say so myself.
My love of music has intensified over the last twenty years since I’ve known my husband. He is a musical oracle with eclectic taste. He was the one who properly introduced me to Stevie Wonder and also James Taylor, Joni Mitchell (I still only like Blue but apparently that’s okay), Chet Baker, The Beach Boys, Peter Gabriel – all the good stuff really. He loves music that I would class as a bit far-out but I can tell that it’s got the chops. Basically, he has huge musical intelligence and can dissect pieces like the most talented of surgeons, whereas I like a good tune I can sing and dance along with. It’s one of the main reasons I joined my local community choir.
And since joining the choir, I listen to music differently. I haven’t got the critical ear of my husband but I find that music moves me now more than it used to. Only the other day, I was practicing one of our songs, I forget which, when I realised I was crying. I’m not sure why but obviously it touched something deep inside me. I like that. As a woman who spends her life squeezing emotions out of the sponge of life, I admire a composer who can evoke that in me.
And so, we return to the thorny poser and those tricksy children who asked it.
‘Come on, Mum,’ says my nine-year-old son earnestly. ‘The world’s going to end. You have to choose.’
I fold my arms. ‘The world is definitely going to end if you’re not upstairs in your pyjamas in five minutes.’
As the children harrumph their way up the stairs, my husband turns to me. ‘Neat deflection. Good work.’
‘Thanks,’ I smile. ‘You would have said ‘sod the mortgage’ and chosen music, wouldn’t you?’ A grimacing nod. I put an arm around his shoulder. ‘Thank goodness we don’t have to choose, eh?’
Thank goodness indeed. In the wise words of Edith Sitwell, ‘My personal hobbies are reading, listening to music, and silence.’ She clearly didn’t have to deal with my children so I’ll aim for the first two and enjoy them both as much as possible.
Thank you so much to Annie Lyons for the brilliant guest post!
I was thoroughly entertained whilst reading this book, everything from the characters to the story drew me in and held my attention perfectly. I have to admit to getting a little teary at times as I became attached to the characters flaws and all. I didn't expect to feel the range of emotions that I did when I first sat down to read this book. It was a pleasant surprise to feel such a connection to the book and the characters. With plenty of emotion, hope and friendship I loved the message that Annie Lyons puts across in this story.
It was great to read the story from both the perspective of Nat and Caroline you definitely got a better insight into the characters this way. The character of Nat was probably the most likeable out of the two main characters and I couldn't help but feel sorry for her and the situation she found herself in. The rug was well and truly pulled from under her but I loved how determined she was to try to put her life back in order. Caroline was an intriguing character and I felt like the more I read the more layers there were to her character. Just like Nat she finds herself in a difficult situation but keeps things to herself whereas Nat will openly talk about her feelings. So I loved the almost chalk and cheese friendship they build together they really are a force to be reckoned with along with the rest of the choir. I loved the community spirit within the story, it was a delight to see all different personalities come together with the one objective of saving the community centre.
I also really enjoyed how music was used throughout the book to evoke memories whether they were good or bad ones. Whenever the choir sang "Something Inside So Strong" it took me right back to school when we used to sing that song in music lessons.
Emotional and heartwarming in equal measure!
Thank you to HQDigitalUK & Netgalley for my copy. This is my honest and unbiased opinion.