Published 19 June 2014 by Penguin
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?
The story begins with an Overture and an introduction to Sally and her current life. Sally Howlett is in her wardrobe, terrified and about to start her post-graduate diploma in opera at the Royal College of Music. Apart from a disastrous experience on stage as a child, the only singing she had done was in her wardrobe, with her teddy bear Carrot. The wardrobe is her sanctuary, where she can sing and feel safe. She is just an ordinary girl from a council estate in the Midlands who has an extraordinary talent for singing opera – however she has no self-confidence and despite others telling her how good she is, she refuses to sing in public. Sally lives with her flatmate Barry, a fabulously camp ballet dancer from Barry Island. The Overture ends with a mysterious man from Sally’s past appearing at her door and having an M&S pork belly dinner slung at him. With an introduction like that how can you not be hooked!
I very much enjoyed Lucy Robinson’s latest story. Sally is a very likeable, quirky character with insecurities and vulnerabilities that are familiar to all of us. The story jumps back and forth in time, starting with the back story to Sally’s childhood and family, focusing in particular on her relationship with her troubled cousin Fiona. Sally starts her opera career as a dresser with the Royal Opera House and Fiona was a soloist with the Royal Ballet. When all three – Barry, Sally and Fiona, are included on a Royal Ballet tour to America the story of their time there gradually emerges and we learn why Sally’s life changed so drastically.
There are some wonderful characters here that come into Sally’s life, some I loved and others I wanted to slap. Besides Barry and Fiona, there is the wonderful Jan Borsos – a Hungarian who walks his way across Europe to get to his place at the RCM; the two faced, spiteful Violet and the lovely Helen who becomes a great friend to Sally. Finally, the mysterious Julian Jefferson – who is he really and how does he fit into Sally’s life?
Despite the jumping timescale, the story is not at all difficult to follow and is very well structured. Part way through the book there was an “oh” moment, when suddenly everything fell into place. This took me completely by surprise and was very cleverly written.
I don’t want to give away any of the story as its best discovered through reading. The cover on my proof copy said “prepare for public-transport belly laughs” – I didn’t find the book hilariously funny but I did have many snort and chuckle moments – the writing is witty and enjoyable with depth and substance to the story and so much more than ‘fluffy chick lit’.
My thanks to Real Readers and Penguin for the paperback copy to review.
About the author:
The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me will be Lucy Robinson’s third book and follows on from the tremendous success of The Greatest Love Story of All Time and A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger.
Prior to writing Lucy earned her crust in theatre production and then factual television, working on documentaries for all of the UK’s major broadcasters. Her writing career began when she started a dating blog for Marie Claire about her fairly pathetic attempts at Internet dating.
Lucy was brought up in Gloucestershire surrounded by various stupid animals. She studied at Birmingham University and lived in London for many years before disappearing off to South America to write her first two novels.
She now lives in Bristol with her partner, The Man. She likes dogs and cheese and horses and seals and cake and baths and she blogs daily about funny things that have made her smile today.