Friday, 30 May 2014

Book review: The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me by Lucy Robinson


My edition: Paperback (proof), to be published on 19 June 2014 by Penguin, 488 pages.

Description: Sally is an incredible singer but she sings only in her wardrobe where nobody can hear her. She'd rather join a nudist colony than sing in public.

That is until she ventures to New York where a wild and heady summer of love and loss changes her forever. No longer able to hide in the shadows, Sally must return home to London to fulfill a promise she cannot break - to share her voice.

But just as she's about to embark on her new life, a beautiful man turns up on Sally's doorstep bearing a sheepish smile and a mysterious hand-written message.

How did he find her? Why is he here? Does he hold the truth to what happened back in New York? And, with him back on the scene, will she still have the courage to step into the spotlight?

Rating:



My review for The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me is almost as long as the book itself (sorry), because I loved it so much that there aren't enough words to convey just how amazing I felt it was and I tried to make up for it by rambling... If you don't want to read all the way to the end of my essay, let me summarise by saying that this is an incredible story and one which you HAVE to get as soon as it's available in the shops (June 19th, put it in your diary!).

When I unexpectedly received a copy for review, my initial reaction unfortunately wasn't one of delight at the prospect of an exciting new read (even though I did swoon over the beautiful proof cover) as Lucy Robinson's previous release, A Passionate Love Affair With a Total Stranger, had been a bit disappointing to me and I feared this would be the case again. I needn't have worried, as this novel was utterly perfect in every way. I loved it so much in fact, that I am eager to reread Passionate Love Affair in the hopes that perhaps I wasn't in the right mindset at the time and I'll enjoy it much more upon my second reading attempt.

The story of Unfinished Symphony centres on Sally, who has had a passion for all things opera ever since she was just a little kid. She's been able to immerse herself in this wonderfully musical world by working in the wardrobe department at the Royal Opera House in London, however, what only a very few selected people know (mostly by accident), is that Sally is actually an incredibly accomplished opera singer herself. But because of a childhood trauma her fear of performing is more than simple stage fright and the only occasions she reluctantly sings along to her favourite operas is when she is by herself, hiding in her wardrobe and practising with the tapes she's collected since she was old enough to receive pocket money.

However, she's made a promise to the person who is dearest to her to give her secret passion a try for real and audition for the Royal College of Music. Not in a million years did she think she would actually get in, but she does. And her audition was so impressive that her fellow students have already heard all about it before she's even taken her first class. Receiving accolades for her talents doesn't do anything for her fear of singing in public though, and she reluctantly forces herself to go to school in those early days - the only thing preventing her from quitting all-together being the promise she made.

Sally's eclectic mix of fellow students - from Jan Borsos, who walked across Europe and lost a shoe along the way to have the opportunity to attend the opera school, to the down-to-earth and very likeable Helen - and friends, already make for a colourful cast of supporting characters. And then opera legend Julian Jefferson makes an appearance at the school who, Sally soon realises, is her ex-boyfriend Julian Bell... What exactly happened between the two ex-lovebirds us readers don't find out until well into the novel, but it's a beautifully passionate and also heartbreaking story.

I may have mentioned this before, but this books was all sorts of amazing. Firstly, Sally was a delightful change from so many impossibly gorgeous and interchangeable characters in romantic comedy novels. After a while they all muddle together into the same non-descriptively bland person, but not Sally. She was perfectly normal, flaws and all, and seemed genuinely nice and interesting; the kind of person that you'd want to know and be friends with. There was a great supporting cast of characters as well and I particularly fell for the eccentric yet loveable Jan Borsos and the broodingly gorgeous Julian. Lucy Robinson described her leading men in such delectable detail that other book boyfriends have paled in comparison.

The story is told in alternating present and past times, which means that the big event from Sally's recent past, which is alluded to all throughout the novel, isn't revealed until almost the very end. This was done in a clever way and the closer I got to the revealment, the faster I started reading as I HAD to know what would happen next. Not in the least which of the two eligible men, if any, Sally would end up choosing.

The opera world the novel is set in was new to me, but the passionate love Sally feels for the music and the beautifully descriptive storytelling of Lucy when it comes to this form of art has certainly piqued my interest. So while (despite being a culture vulture) I've never seen a live opera performance before, I'm super keen to expand my knowledge in this field now and attend one of these impressive sounding performances myself. So thanks Lucy, for expanding my musical horizons!

At 488 pages in length, this is a mighty thick rom-com novel but don't let that put you off picking it up. Despite the page count this is a surprisingly quick read, because the story is so incredibly engaging that you'll happily forgo sleep, meals and other 'necessities' in favour of reading just a few more chapters (and by a few I mean ALL of them).

The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me is an incredible novel. Lucy Robinson's delightfully witty way with words will make you laugh out loud and the beautiful but immensely sad story will make you cry embarrassingly whilst on the train. And once you've turned the final page, it will also make you want to start the book all over again straight away - you are warned!

You can purchase a copy of the novel from Waterstones, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com or your own preferred retailer.



Would you like to know more about the author? You can connect with her online at:

Website: lucy-robinson.co.uk

Twitter: @Lucy_Robinson

Facebook: www.facebook.com/lucyrobinsonwriter


Many thanks to realreaders.co.uk for a proof copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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