Title: The Songs of Us
Author: Emma Cooper
Publication (e-book): 31st May 2018
Publication (paperback): 20th September 2018
Date of Review: 23rd May 2018
If Melody hadn’t run out of de-icer that day, she would never have slipped and banged her head. She wouldn’t be left with a condition that makes her sing when she’s nervous. And she definitely wouldn’t have belted out the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ in assembly at her son’s school.
If Dev hadn’t taken the kids to the zoo that day, then the accident wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have left Flynn and Rose without a dad. Or shattered the love of his life’s heart.
But if they hadn’t seen the missing person report that day, they might never have taken the trip to Cornwall. And, in the last place they expected, discovered what it really means to be ‘Us’.
Before you start reading this debut I suggest you settle yourself down with a big box of tissues. This book will have the tears rolling down your cheeks; one minute from laughing, the next out of sadness. I’d already heard good things about this book, so was looking forward to reading it. I expected it to be a light-hearted read with perhaps a few laughs along the way. What I got was something much more than this.
The narrative has a mostly linear structure which is told through first-person perspectives of the whole family: Mother, father, and two teenage children. There is also some second-person narration where Dev addresses Melody. With Dev’s character not being introduced until a little later, this second-person narrative works really well; drawing the reader into Dev’s stream of inner consciousness, allowing them to empathise with everything he’s been through.
The characters are incredibly relateable, and the strong bond between them as a family will bring tears to your eyes. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t all perfect family or anything; they have more than their fair share of problems. But together they stand up to everything that’s thrown at them. Anybody who has children at secondary school will really cheer Melody on when she has to deal with the school. And the way quiet and unassuming Rose stands up to her git of a headmaster, really is quite fabulous; the book is worth reading for this part alone.
With a neurological condition that makes her burst into song at the most inappropriate times, Melody is hilarious. But she’s also suffered an incredibly sad past. Used to putting the needs of her family first, there are times when you want to shout at her to put herself first for a change. Luckily she has Flynn to do this for her. My absolute favourite character, Flynn is Melody’s 16 year-old son; and the author absolutely nailed his personality. With facial scarring and being blind in one eye, Flynn is used to standing up for himself. But rather than feeling sorry for himself, he just gets on with what needs to be done to look out for his mother and sister.
But just as Melody starts to overcome the sadness of her past, she is dealt a fatal blow that will make you want to scream ‘NOOOO!!’ Be warned, if you read this on a Kindle, as you could be in danger of throwing it across the room!
Despite all the sadness, this is also an uplifting story of love and the true meaning of what it is to be a family. It is a fantastic debut, and I’m really looking forward to reading more from Emma Cooper.
The combined humour and sadness reminded me of Mariane Keyes; the sad but uplifting story reminded me of Jojo Moyes, and Rowan Coleman.
Under Literature Love’s rating this book has been awarded 5 out of 5 stars for its genre.
A five-star review means:
I absolutely loved this book and couldn’t put it down. I recommend you stop what you’re doing and go and buy this book now! As well as having all the elements of a four-star review, this book transcends its genre. The language is original and compelling; characters jumped off the page; and twists in the plot left me gasping. This rare and exceptional book will be put forward for Literature Love’s top 10 books of the year.
Thank you to the author, Emma Cooper; and Pheobe Swinburn at Headline for an ARC copy of this book.