When the Music Stops by Joe Heap

I’m not sure there are words to describe how much I LOVED When the Music Stops by Joe Heap. I just adored everything about it. The premise, the characters, the setting, the writing, the music; they’re all just perfect. I almost want to turn back to the beginning and read it all over again!

It tells the story of Ella’s life through a series of significant or life-changing eras. When we first meet her she’s in her 80s, battling dementia and (almost) alone on a boat in the middle of the sea. We then flashback to her school days before and during the war, and then to various significant periods in her life, meeting her friends and following her careers and different lifestyles along the way. We see how there are certain constant threads that tie her life together, even when everything else seems to change: love, loss and music.

This is such an original and emotional story; I’ve never read anything quite like it. Ella is a fabulous character, and I really admired how she managed to forge a successful career despite, as a woman, the odds being stacked against her. She leads a pretty turbulent life with a lot of difficulties, loss and heartbreak along the way. But she’s a fighter and manages to endure despite it all. From the outset I was invested in her friendship with Robert, a schoolmate and fellow musician who, over the years, she variously loses touch with and finds again. He’s such a loveable character that I couldn’t help but hope that he and Ella would eventually end up together.

When the Music Stops is a book that makes you consider how small actions and decisions might take you on a very different path than the one you originally imagined. It looks at the huge impact that people might have on the lives of others, even if their meeting is only very brief. But most of all it’s just an absolutely brilliant read, one which I unreservedly recommend. It will be published by Harper Collins on the 29th October. With thanks for gifting me an eARC for review.

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