The Music Shop [Book Review]

May 25, 2018

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce (cover) Image: a woman in a green coat and bobbed brown hair stands with her back to the camera

Genre/categories: Fiction, Friendship, Music


Set in the 1980s on a run-down street in a forgotten suburb of London, there is a small indie music shop that is jam-packed with vinyl records of every kind. Frank, the shop’s owner, has a way of connecting his customers with the exact piece of music they never knew they needed, he welcomes the lonely, and he goes out of his way to help others. One ordinary day, a beautiful young woman in a green coat, Ilse Brauchmann, comes into his music shop and changes his life. Frank feels an attraction to her and yet he fears developing any closeness; in spite of his reservations, he begins to teach her about music and they develop a close friendship based on their common musical interests. Frank is terrified of his feelings for Ilse, yet he’s drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with eyes as black as vinyl. It’s complicated because Ilse has secrets and Frank has a past that haunts him. Readers find out about Frank’s life with his eccentric mother through flashbacks; however, Ilse remains mysterious. While Frank and Ilse contemplate the risks of a relationship, there are events in the community that threaten the livelihood of all the small, independent shops including Frank’s music shop. A further complication for Frank is the growing popularity of cassette tapes and CDs while Frank cherishes the world of vinyl.

My Thoughts

Auto-Buy Author: Rachel Joyce is one of my favorite authors. Have you read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry or The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy?

Themes: Despite the probability of a relationship between Frank and Ilse, the main theme of The Music Shop explores healing more than romance. Other themes involve persistence, risk-taking, and music appreciation as readers are treated to a variety of musical discussions. In addition, the theme of friendship (community) is strong as readers meet loyal, delightful, memorable, and flawed characters. As a bonus, there is a Spotify playlist for the music selections mentioned in the story so that you can listen as you read.

Meet Frank, a Compelling Character: I have a soft spot in my heart for a quirky character who is overcoming a difficult and turbulent past and taking risks to create a better life. In the spirit of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, A Man Called Ove, and Britt-Marie Was Here, readers come to understand and love Frank. Through this gentle and heartfelt story, we notice that Frank has a gift of listening to each customer and recommending a perfect piece of music to touch that person’s soul. In spite of a fear of love and connection, we notice that Frank has gained the love and support of the small community on Unity Street. On this aptly named street, these small, independent shop owners stick together, form a community, and care for one another in tough economic times and tragedies. Like many people who are busy loving their neighbors, Frank has difficulty accepting their love and attention in return. As with many independent store owners, he carefully provides personal service to each customer (paying or not). His greatest gift is the ability to listen, his greatest heartache is his devotion to and preservation of vinyl, and his greatest fear is having what he most wants…the love of mysterious Ilse.

Recommended: In this heartfelt and compelling story, Frank and Ilse take risks and the healing power of music and love is poignantly illustrated. This book may not be for everyone, but I loved it! I highly recommend The Music Shop for readers who love music (especially vinyl) and for readers who appreciate quirky, flawed characters struggling to make a better life despite their past. I had it rated a solid 4 stars until the ending which had me in tears, and that’s when I knew this story had earned 5 stars.

Content Consideration: Language, memories of a harsh mother

Remember to listen to The Music Shop Playlist on Spotify as you read!

My Rating: 5 romantic stars


music shop

The Music Shop Information Here

Meet the Author, Rachel Joyce

Rachel JoyceRachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Perfect. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and has been translated into thirty-six languages. Joyce was named the Specsavers National Book Awards “New Writer of the Year” in 2012. She is also the author of The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, The Music Shop, and the digital short story A Faraway Smell of Lemon and is the award-winning writer of more than thirty original afternoon plays and classic adaptations for BBC Radio 4. Rachel Joyce lives with her family in Gloucestershire.

 Let’s Discuss!

Have you read The Music Shop or is it on your TBR?

Have you read anything by Rachel Joyce?

I’d love to hear what you’re reading this month.

 Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

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~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
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PBS: The Great American Read

How many books have you read of the hundred on the list? Which ones will you vote for? Were you surprised by any on the list? Do you plan to vote on your favorite reads? I’ve already voted once for Gone With the Wind!

A Link I Love

The Novel Endeavor: Summer Reading Guide for Families: Fairy Tale Retellings

Looking Ahead:

Next week, I’ll be highlighting some summer recs for kids (while I’m reading Backman’s new release Us Against You……sequel to Beartown….. releasing 6/5).

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

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  1. […] The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce (previously reviewed here) Genre: Fiction (categories: music, memorable characters) My Rating: 5 Stars My Brief Thoughts: In the spirit of A Man Called Ove, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and Britt-Marie Was Here, this is a poignant and heartfelt story of a quirky and lovable music shop owner who is dedicated to the preservation of vinyl and finds love and healing through music. (there is a playlist on Spotify to accompany the book) See my full review here. Recommended for music lovers and for readers who appreciate quirky characters who struggle to create a better life for themselves. *Language Alert […]

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