#Review: Nothing Else by Louise Beech @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks #publicationday #ebook #NothingElse

By | April 23, 2022

I’m delighted today to share my publication day review of Louise Beech’s latest book, Nothing Else: published by Orenda Books, it’s now available as an e-book, with the paperback and audiobook to follow in June. Karen Sullivan knows well how eagerly I await every one of Louise’s wonderful books, and I’d like to thank her for sending me an advance e-copy.

I think I might just rename today “Louise Beech Day” – as well as reviewing her latest novel, I do plan to also capture my thoughts on her stunning memoir, Daffodils, to share tomorrow. And I suspect it’s not only Karen who knows how I unfailingly love Louise’s writing. I fell in love with her first, How To Be Brave (you’ll find my review here), and it’s always had a special place in my heart, but so many more wonderful books have followed – you’ll find reviews of them all here on Being Anne, every one becoming my personal favourite, every one featuring in my annual Books of the Year lists. Her last book, This Is How We Are Human, was really exceptional – a book that, like her others, really made me feel, filled with hope and love, and totally unforgettable (you’ll find my review here). She reinvents herself with every book, and I rarely know what to expect – other than knowing that the writing will be truly stunning.

Heather Harris is a piano teacher and professional musician, whose quiet life revolves around music, whose memories centre on a single song that haunts her. A song she longs to perform again. A song she wrote as a child, to drown out the violence in their home. A song she played with her little sister, Harriet.


But Harriet is gone … she disappeared when their parents died, and Heather never saw her again.


When Heather is offered an opportunity to play piano on a cruise ship, she leaps at the chance. She’ll read her recently released childhood care records by day – searching for clues to her sister’s disappearance – and play piano by night … coming to terms with the truth about a past she’s done everything to forget.


An exquisitely moving novel about surviving devastating trauma, about the unbreakable bond between sisters, Nothing Else is also a story of courage and love, and the power of music to transcend – and change – everything.

This is a story of love – of the unbreakable bond between sisters – but also about being brave enough to acknowledge the past, to face the memories, to overcome loss and grief, and to live life in the present. It’s also very much about the healing power of music – and the melodies continued to haunt me long after I finished reading, because the whole story and the author’s simply wonderful writing had once again touched my heart.

Heather is now in her forties, an accomplished pianist who has turned her talents to teaching others, always preferring to work with older children – she relishes the challenge, but also finds it easier that they don’t bring back painful thoughts of her lost sister Harriet. But one day she agrees to teach a younger child who looks uncomfortably like the sister who is never far from her thoughts, and it throws her life off kilter – the memories flood back, and she’s unable to carry on with her teaching. At the urging of a friend, she decides to take a job on a cruise ship, playing the piano for the happy holidaymakers three times a day – but, before she departs, she also decides to apply for her care records, taking them with her in an attempt to understand exactly what happened all those years ago, with the possibility of trying to find her sister.

Told in a series of flashbacks, we find out about her early life – the loving mother, the cold and abusive father, the atmosphere of fear and control permeating the home where the girls escape into music to cover the sounds of violence coming from downstairs, but are only too aware of their mother’s bruises the next morning. And then there’s the unexpected arrival of a piano – to be played when their father is absent, with any idea of lessons in how to play strictly forbidden. Their mother takes an extraordinary risk – having secretly introduced them to the beauty of the music of Chopin (and I’m filling up with tears just thinking about that moment…) she defies her husband and arranges sessions with a music teacher, and both girls discover that they have an innate talent and ability on the keyboard. Together they devise a four-handed piece, the Nothing Else of the book’s title, sitting together on the wide piano stool, Heather the primo on the right, Harriet to her left – and creating the melody becomes their escape. And then their parents die – and they find themselves in a children’s home, the music and their tight bond sustaining them… until the day that Harriet disappears.

And, in the present, we follow Heather’s life on the cruise ship – a fascinating look at life below decks, the friendships and alliances, the characters, the crew parties, punctuated by her performances at lunchtime, early evening and late at night in the three main (and wonderfully described) lounges, and her solitary moments revisiting the layers of her memories. And she finally feels able to play her own music – including Nothing Else, despite her pain at the absence of her sister at her side. And then, the focus of the narrative shifts… and the story follows an unexpected path, but one that was immensely powerful and moving, and delivered everything I could have possibly asked for.

It’s quite impossible to convey how deeply this book affected me – it’s filled with moments that seared themselves into my memory, from the elusive image of the piano being in the garden in their childhood to Heather, serene and detached and in her element, seated at the piano while the dancers swirl around the dance floor. Its characters – major and minor – are perfectly drawn, the settings vividly recreated, the emotional content so very powerful and entirely engaging. There are moments of lightness and sheer joy, times of laughter – but also moments of darkness in the sisters’ past that made me ache unbearably inside. I loved the way she conveyed the healing power of the music – there are times when I’d swear I could hear it, rising and falling in the background, and I found that intensely moving. The unfolding story entirely enthralled me from beginning to end – the strength and originality of the author’s storytelling took my breath away.

This book is perhaps rather different from her others, although it’s probably fair to say that her books are never entirely what you might be expecting – it might surprise some readers, but it certainly won’t lessen their enjoyment. I’ve declared every one of her books my new favourite, and this time is no exception. This book is simply stunning – a story that entirely engrossed me, beautifully told, powerful and intensely moving, tender and overflowing with love, infused with its characters strength and bravery, gloriously positive and uplifting… and I loved every single moment.

About the author

Louise’s debut novel, How to be Brave, was a Guardian Readers’ pick in 2015 and a top ten bestseller on Amazon. The Mountain in my Shoe longlisted for the Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize 2016. The Sunday Mirror called Maria in the Moon ‘quirky, darkly comic, original and heartfelt’. It was also a Must Read in the Sunday Express and a Book of the Year at LoveReadingUK. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was described as ‘engrossing and captivating’ by the Daily Express. It also shortlisted for the RNA’s Romantic Novel of the Year and longlisted for the Polari Prize 2019. Call Me Star Girl hit number one on Kobo. It also longlisted for the Not The Booker Prize and won the Best magazine Big Book Award 2019. This Is How We Are Human was a Clare Mackintosh August Book of the Month 2021. Her memoir, Daffodils was published in audiobook on 1st April.

Follow Louise on Twitter: she also has an excellent website. Details of Louise’s books can be found on her Amazon author  page or via the Orenda Books website.

One thought on “#Review: Nothing Else by Louise Beech @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks #publicationday #ebook #NothingElse

  1. Sara Gethin

    Fabulous review, Anne. I’m a big fan of Louise Beech too and can’t wait to read Nothing Else and Daffodils!

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