It’s such a pleasure today to be part of the blog tour for The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper. I’d wanted to read this one when the e-version was released back in May, and have watched all those wonderful reviews appearing, so wanting to be able to fit it into my reading list. The paperback was published by Headline Review on 20th September, and is absolutely guaranteed to be one of this year’s top sellers – and, having now read it, it thoroughly deserves to be.
If Melody hadn’t run out of de-icer that day, she would never have slipped and banged her head. She wouldn’t be left with a condition that makes her sing when she’s nervous. And she definitely wouldn’t have belted out the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ in assembly at her son’s school.
If Dev hadn’t taken the kids to the zoo that day, then the accident wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have left Flynn and Rose without a dad. Or shattered the love of his life’s heart.
But if they hadn’t seen the missing person report that day, they might never have taken the trip to Cornwall. And, in the last place they expected, discovered what it really means to be ‘Us’.
The whole premise of this book is so different, so original, that I really take my hat off to the author – what an extraordinary imagination. Melody sings – and it makes you laugh at the incongruity and awkwardness that ensues, particularly for her embarrassed children. But it also touches your heart, and very deeply – this is one of the best portrayals of the relationships that make individuals into a family, bound together by love, that I’ve read in a long time. I loved too the way the song lyrics – sometimes remembered less than accurately, adding to the humour – were woven into the narrative. This is such very clever writing – although, much as I enjoyed it, I did find myself wondering at times where the story might be going.
The trip to Cornwall brings a bit of a change in tone and content – but I never expected what followed, a story that totally broke me. Now I know I often mention being moved to tears – I’m a total pushover for a sad story – but this one really had me crying helplessly, I’d grown to care so much for this family who’d triumphed over so many problems and who I’d taken so much to my heart.
It’s quite a story, so wonderfully written, achieving that difficult balance between sparkling humour and heart-breaking poignancy, every character beautifully drawn. Melody always draws your eye – even when not singing – but I loved the way the narrative was sometimes carried by others. At risk of sounding like a lightweight, this was a long book at 432 pages, and I’ll admit I thought it maybe could have been shortened just a tad – but that last third made the investment more than worthwhile. And the epilogue is absolute perfection… heavens, I’m sobbing again just thinking about it…
About the author
Emma Cooper is a former teaching assistant, who lives in Shropshire, with her partner and four children. Her spare time consists of writing novels, drinking wine and watching box-sets with her partner of twenty-four years, who still makes her smile every day.
Emma has always wanted to be a writer – ever since her childhood, she’s been inventing characters (her favourite being her imaginary friend ‘Boot’) and is thrilled that she now gets to use this imagination to bring to life all of her creations. The Songs of Us was inspired by Emma’s love of music and her ability to almost always embarrass herself, and her children, in the most mundane of situations. She was so fascinated by the idea of combining the two, that she began to write Melody’s story.
Working full-time with a large family meant that Emma had to steal snippets of ‘spare’ time from her already chaotic and disorganised life; the majority of her novel was written during her lunchtime in a tiny school office. She never expected to fall so deeply in love with the King family and is overwhelmed that others feel the same.