The Song is You
By Arthur Phillips (Duckworth)
ISBN 978 0 7156 3873 6 • £8.99 (pbk)
A song is a magical time-travelling machine. The opening bars of a familiar melody can transport us across time and space, conjuring memories of Christmases-past, first loves, birthdays, weddings and funerals. In his fourth novel, The Song is You, Arthur Phillips enacts the melancholy of mourning through the random play list of an i-pod shuffle. The protagonist, Julian Donahue, is disconnected emotionally from the world. His infant son has died and his marriage has crumbled beneath the weight of unspoken grief. We follow Donahue’s deeply personal voyage from despair to hope, listening to “the world slowly reopening to him” through his headphones.
He tapped at his iPod, feeling within a note or two whether each random offering could provide what he was craving. Funk, punk, mope, pop, bop, hip-hop, swing, cool, acid house, Madchester, Belleville, New Orleans, Minneapolis white, Minneapolis black, Ivory Coast, Blue Nose groove, neo-baroque soundtrack, jam band, impressionism, hard-core, cowboy, crooner, rai, gypsy, tango, fox-trot, skip, skip skip, his temper rising, and then he felt it, just the opening chords, before he could have identified the musician or said that this was what he needed.
You can read the full review in the Literateur No. 2