Weidenfeld and Nicolson June 15th 2017
An author and a musician collaborate to tell a story. Laura Barnett, the author, embarking on that difficult second novel. Kathryn Williams, a singer songwriter, provides the songs that will unravel the life story of Cassandra Wheeler.
Cassandra Wheeler, singer songwriter, now in her sixties is coming out of retirement, after many years living as a recluse.
Cass will launch her greatest hits album with a number of new songs at a launch party, but before that she is going to sit in her studio and listen to the songs that have shaped her life. No matter how painful the memories Cass is going to confront the past, and relive the events that have led her to this important day.
It is a life that has had many twists and turns, many highs and lows. A childhood marred by an unloving absent mother, a marriage doomed from the start and a career that has led to all the wealth and material possessions that Cass could ever want. But what sacrifices , what has it cost her?
Barnett, is clever and uses the lyrics from Cass’s past songs to begin each chapter as well as to signify a different phase in Cass’s life.
The lyrics tie in beautifully. I particularly loved the poignant lyrics of ‘Common Ground’ used to describe her mother leaving without saying goodbye.
As I read I tried to imagine the accompanying melody, the sound of Cass’s voice and I cannot wait to hear Kathryn William’s interpretation.
The characters portray both the good and bad side of the music industry. From Cass’s husband, Ivor Tait, losing himself in drugs, alcohol and abuse as their marriage falls apart to her wonderful personal assistant, Kim, who tries to protect her. Then there is the beautiful fragile daughter, Anna, caught in the middle of her warring parents, struggling to deal with life.
Barnett’s writing has the capacity to stir up a myriad of emotions in her reader and once or twice, I had to wipe away the odd stray tear.
It was hard to turn the last page, to leave Cass and all the wonderful characters behind in what is a truly unique and memorable novel.
Definitely one of the best novels so far this year.
Thank you so much to Rebecca Gray for sending a proof copy for me to read and review.
Born in South London in 1982, Laura is a writer, journalist and theatre critic. She written for the Daily Telegraph, The Observer and The guardian.Her first novel ‘The Versions of Us’ was published in 2015 and was a huge success.
A Mercury nominated and critically acclaimed singer songwriter whose 2015 album Hypoxia was inspired by Sylvia’s Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’. The album Greatest Hits written in collaboration with Laura Barnett will be released at the the same time as the novel.