After his beloved wife's death, the composer Harry Fox-Talbot is unable to write a single note, until one day he discovers his troublesome young grandson is a piano prodigy.
As the music returns, Fox is compelled to re-engage with life - and, ultimately, to confront an old and bitter rift. One with its roots in 1946, when he gave up his dreams of a musical career to help save the family hone from ruin; and when he fell for his brother's girlfriend, the celebrated wartime singer, Edie Rose.
This is the entrancing tale of a man whose passion for music, an elusive woman and the English landscapes of his youth are inextricably intertwined. A man who finds joy in the wake of grief, and learns that it is never too late to seek forgiveness.
Welcome to the Blog Tour for The Song Collector by Natasha Solomons which was published by Sceptre today, 24 March 2016.
The Song Collector begins in March 2000, Harry Fox-Talbot is reflecting. He is thinking about his wife Edie, he is thinking about how much he misses her. He is thinking about how Edie loved the snow and the ice, and how he really was the only person who really knew her.
The reader is swept back in time to 1946, the war has ended and Harry, his two older brothers and their father, the General are returning to the family home. Hartgrove Hall had been used by the Army during the war, and Harry is especially anxious about returning, in case it is in ruins. Hartgrove is a shadow of the great house that it once was, and Harry and his family set about, making sacrifices, to ensure that it is restored to its former glory.
Natasha Solomons switches her story back and forth with ease. I particularly enjoy a dual-time narrative, and this one is especially well done. I loved the elderly, widowed Harry who is grieving deeply for his wife, who finds himself in charge of a small boy who seems intent on wrecking everything within his sight. And it is this small boy who gives Harry back some hope, and something to live for, for he appears to be something of a musical genius and Harry's love for music begins to return.
The 1940s story is just as engaging and beautifully constructed as the modern-day tale. We follow Harry as he discovers love, and how a sweet love can destroy relationships. This is not just his love for Edie, Harry has a deep love for his home and the surrounding countryside, and this love is just as well portrayed as his romantic relationship with his wife.
The Song Collector is a gently paced story packed with vibrant and colourful characters who are wonderfully formed. The story covers many things, including betrayal and forgiveness, the rawness of love, the pain of bereavement and the hope that comes with a new generation. The musical theme that runs through both the book, and Harry's life adds an interesting depth and quirk to this excellent story.
Natasha Solomons is a gifted author, her story is enchanting and enjoyable and examines the intricacies of family relationships beautifully.
The history of Britain is not just written in books or notched upon the landscape in Holloways or long barrows, it's also contained in song.
Natasha said: 'It was a song about a blackbird that led me to write my new novel The Song Collector. I discovered that a song collector, ale-house keeper and mischief maker lived in our cottage in the 1800s. The more I read about and listened to old songs from where I live in Dorset, I realised that I had to write about a musician and song collector, and his connection to the landscape - and woman - he loves.
As I wrote, I started to appreciate that songs are much like stories - one has to follow their rhythms and cadence. But, when I finished the book, I knew I wasn't finished with song collecting. I'd been utterly caught. After all, there's always one more song to find.
We now want to create a portrait of contemporary Britain in song. We'd love for you to get involved.'
Find The Great British Song Map online
Natasha Solomons is the author of the internationally bestselling Mr Rosenblum's List, The Novel in the Viola, which was chosen for the Richard & Judy Book Club, and The Gallery of Vanished Husbands.
Her novels have been translated into 17 languages.
Find out more about Natasha Solomons at www.natashasolomons.com
Follow her on Twitter @natashasolomons