“The Music Shop” by Rachel Joyce, narrated by Steven Hartley, Random House Audiobooks, 8 hours, 33 minutes
Rachel Joyce, the author of the delightful and not-quite believable “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry,” has done it again with the often laugh-out-loud funny and similarly unbelievable “The Music Shop.” The shop is owned by Frank, who sells only vinyl records. One day Ilse Brauchmann stops by his shop and collapses, and thus the love story begins. Frank has a special musical gift. He can look at anyone and know what music they need to hear. He’s done it for Father Anthony, who runs the small religious gift shop next door. He’s done it for Maud, who owns the nearby tattoo studio. But his gift fails him in the face of Ilse Brauchmann.
English actor Steven Hartley approaches this narration with the good humor it requires, gamely singing when it’s called for — just don’t expect to be reminded of Aretha Franklin or Handel’s Messiah when he tackles them. Joyce is clearly an author who loves her characters, and Hartley helps make each memorable, from the prickly Maud, not-so-secretly in love with Frank, to Frank’s lovable and clumsy assistant, Kit, who, in one of the book’s most adorable chapters, dances around the record shop to the tune of “Shaft.” Frank is ill-prepared to believe he has the right to love, which leads to the plot twists that just don’t bear scrutiny. But, do you really expect believability from a story built around one man’s magical ability to find the music to save your life? Of course not. So just sit back and enjoy the music.
“Montpelier Parade” by Karl Geary, narrated by Geary, Audible Studios, 5 hours, 51 minutes
Actor and club owner Karl Geary, who left Dublin for the United States as a teenager, adds a mournful shade to every sentence in “Montpelier Parade,” his debut novel shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award. It’s an appropriate tone for a story so full of longing.
To read the rest of this review, and a review of “My Absolute Darling,” click here.