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The Thrill of it All Hardcover – 15 May 2014
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"Joseph O'Connor's The Thrill of it All uses layered narrative textures with both serious skill and engaging lightness so that the core drama emerges with clarity and wit." (Colm Toibin Observer, Books of the Year, 2014)
"Occasionally, you read a sentence that you know couldn't be bettered: Joseph O'Connor's new novel is jam-packed with such sentences – paragraph after paragraph of brilliance" (Guardian)
"O'Connor at his playful and narrative best… shot through with electricity, packed with sentences that send you spinning, full of joy and sadness and swerve. This was a book to make my tired heart soar. Of all the Irish writers working today, Joe O'Connor speaks better than anyone of what is genuine, what is necessary, and what is ennobling. A thrill indeed." (Colum McCann, winner of the US National Book Award and the Impac Award)
"[O’Connor] is warm without being sentimental, and he cuts effortlessly between comedy and tragedy. Music nerds will love the most satisfyingly voluminous playlists since High Fidelity" (Kate Saunders The Times)
"A novel about music, family and friendship...O'Connor brilliantly evokes the 1980s... This novel is shot through with humour, patois and all the human contradictions that make the characters truly memorable." (Mail on Sunday)
A captivating novel filled with music, friendship and teenage dreams, from the bestselling author of Ghost Light and Star of the SeaSee all Product description
Top customer reviews
The novel is told from the point of view of Robbie Goulding, ex-member of famous band The Ships in the Night. The first part of the book takes him from 1981 – 1987; beginning with his initial meeting with charismatic lead singer Francis Mulvey when they were both seventeen, in the rather uninspiring location of Luton Polytechnic. From the start, Fran is mesmerising and exotic and it is obvious that he is very different to everybody else around him. It is a useful tool to use Robbie as our narrator as he is certainly the more down to earth of the pair.
As the book progresses, the fledging pair of buskers become a band, with the arrival of twins Trez (Sarah-Therese Sherlock) and Sean. This is the story of so many bands, from early gigs, to the excitement of first appearing on radio or television, the promise of success, missed opportunities and living in squalor. From the beginning, there are also the self destructive indulgence of drugs, in Fran’s case, and drink, in Robbie’s. We follow the band from Luton, to London to New York, as things get harder, then success eventually comes.
We know from the beginning that things for The Ships do not end well. As happens so often, there is recrimination, lawsuits and a parting of the ways. However, O’Connor does a great job of showing the inside of the music business with all its highs and lows and also how young so many members of bands are and how ill equipped they are to cope with the enormous life changes of fame – so often fleeting – and sudden wealth.
The second part of the book takes place in the current time period – that is 2012. Having told the story of the rise of The Ships, we catch up with Robbie and see how his life has turned out. This is a wonderful novel, showing how bands so often do become family to each other – it is full of huge themes like friendship, unrequited love, dealing with fame, ambition and talent. This is a warm, brave and wonderful novel and I recommend it highly.
O'Connor has written a glorious celebration of youth and music, a celebration of those years when music could simply consume you totally, when it soundtracked everything you did. But rather than leave this as a warmly glowing trip back to the 80s (despite the glumness and the weirdly blurry imagery that always shows up in those yearly remembrance shows on TV my memories were pretty good - crap clothes, questionable haircuts, great music, plus ca change) O'Connor allows life and age to intrude and he's created a bittersweet novel that hums and swings with glorious music and yet is tinged with read pathos and real life.
O'Connor and music have form; he's written beautifully, funnily and perceptively on music and its influence in his life for years. He's not po-faced about it, he loves its messy, noisy, grunting, heaving beauty as much as its subtle, gentle, touching, yearning songs.
It may not rank with his finest work and it may not endure as other things he will write or has written (his recounting of his adventures at the 1994 world cup are still some of the funniest things I've read), but The Thrill Of It All is a great read; it zips by and is funny, poignant and sad, and ultimately uplifting.
He's a funny fecker too, is O'Connor. There are so many beautifully funny and beautifully written lines here that you should be read with your highlighter and sticky notes. And while you're fumbling about with those be prepared to have to run about looking for your iPod, your cds or your vinyl because this writing about music is so evocative that it sent me back to listening to songs that I'd not listened to in ages.
It's a thrill all right.
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