The Song Is You

I must say, I was rather pleased with The Song Is You. It's not that I didn't expect to enjoy this, because I did, but I also expected to feel like it was missing a small something. That's how I felt about Prague and The Egyptologist, both works that I enjoyed, but ultimately finished feeling a teensy bit dissatisfied (and also feeling like they went on just a touch too long). No matter what, though, I still really enjoy Phillips' writing style -- which is why I keep reading his stuff. When LibraryThing listed The Song Is You as an early reviewer's option for the monthly books they offer for free, I threw my hat into the ring and snagged a copy. (Oddly enough, the day I received it in the mail, my friend who gets free books via a literary site that he runs, also offered me a copy, which I passed along to another friend.)

I began reading this without the faintest idea of the plot, beyond a vague knowledge that it must have something to do with music and a relationship. The title supplied me with the music idea and the cover (featuring a young man and a young woman) suggested the relationship bit. That's it. So perhaps I shouldn't summarize the plot, but suggest that you, too, should take a chance on this and just read and fall into it. Perhaps, but I won't. Instead, I'll provide a hazy sketch, because really, the plot is a bit hazy, too -- in a good way. Our main character is named Julian and the book focuses on his relationship to music in his life, and his relationships with two other women. To a great degree, the novel portrays people whose relationship to music can often be seen as a means of pushing back on actual human interactions and how music can be more than just the background soundtrack. The novel starts with a scene involving Julian's father at a Billie Holiday concert. Sure, this was the concert where his future wife and mother of his children was seated beside him, but above all, the siren and her music meant so much that it seems to overpower even the events set into motion on that night. Julian is instilled with a great respect for music, raised by a widowed father alongside an older and antisocial brother. He marries, he has a child, that child tragically dies, and his marriage essentially ends, though the final divorce decree has not yet come down. And then Julian is introduced to a new siren, an Irish redhead whose fame is growing, and they become involved in an intricate dance of longing for connection.

The book jacket calls one's attention to the fact that Phillips is a writer for people who both think and feel. And we all know that "think" can often mean "overthink." This particular book is a beautiful portrayal of characters who perhaps aren't looking for romance and meaning, but once it becomes an option, they are hungry to have it, but constantly overthinking in their attempts to create something perfect and potentially lasting.

I shall certainly be recommending this novel to those who have previously enjoyed Phillips' work... and to those who were not perhaps won over, I shall urge them to give it another shot with this, because I think Phillips has really done something remarkable here. The novel shows incredible growth, away from the somewhat arrogant youth of Prague, and while there is a certain indulgence to the melancholy of romance here, the emotions feel real and true. An excellent work, and I shall continue reading whatever Phillips puts out next.

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