I truly enjoyed this story based around the music scene in Glasgow, most specifically Hope Street where Richie Carlisle works in a music shop. We first meet him after he’s had his big musical break and is now back in his home town. Despite working all day alongside musical instruments he doesn’t play much these days, so it’s only when Ally comes into the shop with an idea for a community music group using the local pub as a venue that he thinks of picking up the guitar again. Richie has settled into his life, where he lives alone,but has his son Finn on weekends and has Sunday dinner round at his mums. He knows everyone on Hope Street by name and it feels as if Richie has a little community around him.
It’s a far cry from a few years before when one night playing in the local pub’s Friday Night Jukey! changes the course of his life. A handful of musicians would come ready to play and the audience would shout out requests – always starting with the Proclaimers o”f course. On this night Richie notices a beautiful woman and when she asks for Crowded House he decides to go for a more obscure track, w.hich gets them talking afterwards. There’s something special about her. On the same night he is approached by a manager in the music industry looking for a vocalist for Karl King’s band. He thinks Richie might fit the bill, despite having a complicated past with Karl. Here are two chances in one night: to start a relationship with Penny and see where it goes, or to head down to London and the possibility of music stardom. He tries a compromise and promises to give it five months, and if the band hasn’t taken off he will come back to Glasgow. Penny agrees to a long distance relationship and when his song Let in the Light is recorded both of them think this is it, they are bound for the charts. However, that isn’t what fate has in store for them.
Richie is such a likeable character, in the present day it’s clear he cares about his family and his much older boss at the music shop. He still cares about Penny, even though they’ve broken up and their son Finn ( the Finn brothers from Crowded House) is his absolute world. He’s a little melancholic and stuck in a routine, so the music group could be good to take him out of that head space. It may also shake off his fear of performing, performing in front of others causes huge anxiety ever since he seize up on stage years before at a festival. It’s like he can feeling his throat closing and he can’t even gasp for breath, never mind get out a tune. Ally’s group seems to bring him out of himself and as he closes his eyes to sing he feels at one with performing again. He’s noticed Ally, giving out a bit of encouragement here and listening to another person’s problems there. Whenever she pops into the shops she’s a little ray of sunshine and I started to get the feeling she might be very good for Richie. Yet, he still can’t get Penny out of his mind. When she suddenly announces that she might return down under to her home country of New Zealand Richie can’t believe that she would take Finn away with her.
Everything is changing. The pub may be closing. His old music manager is back in the picture with news about Karl King. Penny puts the house up for rent. He’s at his most vulnerable when he’s asked to perform one final gig at the pub in Hope Street. Can he do it? This might seem a light story, and the writing certainly is. It’s funny in parts too. Yet it has a central message about being true to who you are, and where you’re from. It’s very positive about mental health and how it’s possible to find ways to manage these emotions when they get out of proportion. It suggests looking to our communities for help and support too, many other people have the same struggles and can have the best tips. I really wanted Richie and Finn to succeed. However, I did find myself a bit irked with Penny. So much so I was hoping he’d end up with Ally. When Penny decides to move back home, it’s like she hasn’t even thought of how devastating this will be, not just for Richie, but for the wider family. Finn belongs to all of them and needs them all in his life. The story of Karl King, tells us that we need roots and ways of belonging to get by in life. None of us can stand alone. This is a great novel, with moving, realistic characters and an enjoyable musical plot. Now I need to go and create a Spotify playlist of the songs featured and inspired by reading this book.
Meet The Author
Gerard was born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland. He moved to England in his 20s and worked in various northern towns before settling in beautiful Yorkshire with his family and two guinea pigs. He has written three albums (two of which will never be released!) In 2019, he attended a writing class to help him generate ideas for further songwriting, but, instead, started writing a novel.
And this is where it’s ended up. Stay tuned.