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The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce
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The Music Shop: 03/17/22

The Music Shop

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce is set primarily in 1987-1988 in a British industrial town, known mostly for its crisps factory. Like Hayward of that decade, too much of the economy hinges on one industry and the rest of the town is suffering for it.

But there are also flashbacks to fourteen years earlier when Frank first buys the abandoned, completely trashed storefront that becomes his music shop. It's not he knows how to run a record shop. But he knows and loves music and has a diehard loyalty to vinyl, even as it appears its on the way out in lieu of cassettes and CDs.

As things are looking bleak, Frank's world turns upside down when a mysterious woman faints outside his store. Ilse, a German speaking woman, has moved to the city for reasons all her own. She claims to not listen to music but Frank manages to find something just right for her. On the strength of his first recommendation, she hires him for "music lessons" which they take at a restaurant under the watchful eye of an overworked waitress.

Mostly this novel is atmosphere. It's the struggling dead end street and its shops as the economy contracts. It's a business owner stubbornly resisting change and his headstrong belief that he'll be able to weather it. It's a mysterious woman who has clearly fallen for said oblivious shopkeep.

As this story was published in 2017 for readers of that era, the average reader will have the 20/20 hindsight to know that Frank's love of vinyl will pay him off someday. So then the nagging background feeling throughout is what will happen to prevent the survival of Frank's store? How do these two potential lovebirds get to the present? Do they?

For anyone curious, yes, there is an HEA but it comes at a cost. This is an HEA for an older couple, not the newly middle aged ones they are in the bulk of the book.

I happened to read an imported copy to avoid any Americanization of the text. The excessively regionalism of the language is so key to setting this story in a place and time.

Five stars

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