Here's the thing: the concept is great. Frank owns a record store in the 1980s, when records are beginning to be replaced by CDs. He holds fast to his beloved records, falls in love, and his favorite music becomes the soundtrack to his pursuit of the forbidden woman, interspersed with the memories of the music from his childhood, with his tempestuous, eccentric mother.
I think Rachel Joyce wanted to write the next HIGH FIDELITY, but she doesn't have the charm or the wit of Nick Hornby. Instead, she writes what I call "hand-holding fiction." Maggie Stiefvater does this, too. The prose is lovely but often overly precious, and everything is explained to you in great detail, as if the author doesn't trust the readers enough to let them figure it out for themselves. We must always be told what a character is feeling, and why, instead of being allowed to infer that ourselves.
It's. So. Freaking. Annoying.
Another thing that really galled me about this book is the manic pixie dreamgirl element. Frank is lost, adrift, and it's the entrance of a tortured, quirkygirl that grounds him and gives him meaning. I hate the manic pixie dreamgirl trope, because in such stories the heroine becomes a means to an end: a reward to the male character for dutifully completing his character arc. As if that weren't enough, they're both pretentious AF. Frank gives her "music lessons" where he mansplains to her for hours about what musicians are good and what the records mean (kindly eff off, Frank), and Ilse is flighty and mysterious and utterly flat, apart from having a fancy accent and fancy clothes.
If you ever wondered what the little shits in John Green novels would be like in middle age, pick up this book and satisfy your curiosity, because these characters are totally the little shits in John Green novels all grown up and in the midst of a mid-life crisis.
I received an ARC of this book for review.
2 out of 5 stars