Side-splitting humour and jaw-dropping drama. Can they be found in the same book, with success? You bet they can! #bookreview of The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper

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A day out with my twenty year old London-based daughter, Westminster Abbey the destined venue of perusal.  Tickets pre-booked and in we sailed, past the waiting crowds feeling a little like royalty ourselves as the brass-ended rope was unhooked especially.

The only reason my makeup was intact was because I’d put down the book.  THE book?   Yes, THE book I’d been waiting since February to get my hands on, that’s the 10th February to be precise.   Let me explain.

On 10th February, I attended my first meeting having joined the Romantic Novelists Association.   Having got my shit together – thanks to Sarah Knight – I’d also become a member of an online FB reading group since October the last year called The Fiction Cafe Book Club (and from those members, had been invited to join their private Writers Group).    Emma Cooper was a fellow-member and her debut’s release was imminent as we approached Christmas.

In the privacy of the FB chats, she shared her anguish and hopes that readers would enjoy her story, that they would ‘get’ Melody, her main character who bursts into song at moments of stress or high emotion (this is not a spoiler as that snippet you’ll find on the blurb on the back of the book!).

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Back at that February meeting, after some mutual nervous but enthusiastic introductions with fellow aspiring authors sitting waiting for the talks to start, not only did I find myself sitting behind Katie Fford, I listened to an amazing talk by the then buyer for WHSmith Travel.  Matt was responsible for choosing which titles are displayed on the shelves at airports and larger train stations, limited space being factor.    He was so passionate about his role and read books before their release day in, day out.    He had an eye for knowing what us mere mortal readers and weary travellers would be keen to grab before embarking on a journey.    When Emma’s book came up on the OHP as one of his six predicted stars of 2018 in the Commercial Fiction UpLit category, I had to glue myself to the seat and sit on my hands.

What I wanted  to do was jump up and shout “Excuse me?  I know Emma!  Well, not like truly know her – yet – but we talk on this FB group often and I’ve watched her deal with the process in the background, OMG!!!”  Yet all around me, were these experts and multi-published authors calmly taking in the titles and authors which would be gracing our kindles and handbags and desks.   I mean, LOOK, JoJo Moyes and Jill Mansell is in that list!!   eeeeeeek 

Anwyay, fast forward a few months and ‘Songs’ (as Emma often refers to it) went live on kindle but I held fast to the notion that I wanted the paperback version.   My regular followers will know I prefer to hold a book, yet have enjoyed many kindle titles and do see the benefits.     The reviews started flowing in and Matt had been right to earmark the title as a potential bestseller.    The weeks passed and Emma and her agent, Amanda Preston at LBA, prepared for the launch of the paperback.

With my flights booked to Spain on 20th September, my dream of buying a copy from an airport was within my grasp.    Emma was nervous that even though the travel section of WHS usually acquire paperbacks earlier than the High St,  copies might not have found their way into Gatwick, but the system did not let me down, and her worries only go to show the incredibly modest nature of this woman and author.

So, why did I just give this book 5 stars on Amazon this morning?

Was it because I’ve two children which mirrors the personal motherhood situation of Melody, or did I relate to some of Melody’s family life hurdles because our team of four (as Man of the Woods like to refer to us) has had some of our own?  Was it because I recognised pretty much every song so carefully woven into the prose by Emma, illustration Melody’s uncontrollable condition?   Or was it because Emma’s ability to take everyday scenarios and create the most hysterical metaphors and similes such that you know immediately what she means?

It was all of these things, and more.    My God.  I could barely speak after the final scene.

Twice on Saturday I had mentally prepared myself to finish those last six pages, once on the jubilee line and once outside the Abbey sat in the Cloisters, but on both occasions – within seconds – I’d crack and have to gulp back escaping tears.  My daughter was like “What the … Oh God, have you not finished it yet?”

Thank goodness for the Epilogue.  I was able to end on a smile but was still shocked with the intensity of the reality Emma created in those pages.  (I’m sure she’s probably been lying to us and this isn’t her debut, but her twentieth book of esteemed writing).   I thoroughly enjoyed the ‘experience’ whilst reading it.  You know I love an emotional tale and this is going to be hard to beat.  For me, as a reading experience, it was just as good as Audrey Niffenegger’s ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ and Julie Cohen’s ‘Together’ and those both blew me away.

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