A Song Unsung by Fiona Cane | Book Review | #ASongUnsung | 1950’s Jazz and the Summer of ’76


A heatwave. A mystery. An obsession.

Set against the bohemian backdrop of Soho’s jazz basements and coffee shops of the late fifties, and a Sussex village during the long hot summer of 1976, A Song Unsung is a coming-of-age story about an impressionable teenage girl who falls under the spell of a beautiful singer with a mysterious past.

Soho 1958. Martha Palmer, an aspiring singer working in a coffee shop, is desperately short of cash. She’s been scouted by a photographer. The money’s good. But there’s a catch … Sussex 1976. Nothing much happens in teenager Natasha James’ life. Her mother has taken to her bed and her father, the local doctor, is preoccupied with his patients. But when the magnetic Martha Palmer moves into her village, Natasha is drawn into a glittery world of extravagant parties, steeped in the embroidered rhythms of jazz. But who is the mysterious Martha Palmer? And why is she the keeper of so many secrets?

Desperate to fill in the gaps of Martha’s past, Natasha uncovers a heart-breaking love story, the truth of which threatens to destroy all that she holds dear.

Publisher: Caracol Books
Format: ebook & paperback (27 May 2021)
Pages: 324
Source: Ecopy received from author for review

MY THOUGHTS

Set over two timelines – the jazz clubs of the late 1950s and the long hot summer of 1976, this coming of age story takes us into the worlds of Martha and Natasha. They may have been born decades apart however the connection of their stories will have far reaching consequences.

In London, 1958, teenager Martha has a whole world opening up for her. Living in a ladies only boarding house whilst working as a waitress in a Soho cafe, she has a fantastic singing talent and has been discovered by Cee Cee, a jazz musician, playing the clubs with his band. Martha joins them but what nobody knows is that Martha made a mistake when she was desperate for money.

In Sussex, its 1976 and Natasha is bored and lonely through the long hot summer. Her mother has withdrawn from the family and stays in her bed and her GP father does his best but is too busy to pay much attention to where his daughter goes or what she does. A new family, the Fairchilds, move into the village – they seem so glamorous with a lifestyle so far removed from Natasha’s that she becomes entranced but the more time she spends with the family the more she plays with fire. Natasha feels the lack of her own mother in her life and Martha begins to fill the void.

I found both strands of the story equally engrossing however whilst both main characters are superbly drawn, it was Martha that I was drawn to the most. Martha’s story was a fascinating one involving the Soho jazz scene, the life of touring and first love. Estranged from her parents, she had no one to guide her and had to navigate her own way through.

A Song Unsung is an evocative and intriguing story with the atmosphere of the Jazz scene so vividly captured and village life so well described. Both Martha and Natasha have something in common and it is this gift which brings Natasha closer to Martha Fairchild. However there are many secrets to be revealed before the dramatic conclusion of this story – although it’s not a mystery there were some things that had my brain in overdrive trying to work out.

I did think that this might be my type of book when I was asked to review and I’m delighted to say that it definitely was. I thoroughly enjoyed A Song Unsung. I was a teenager in 1976 and remember that hot summer. Natasha’s posters of the ‘Davids’ on her bedroom walls bought back memories for me as my bedroom walls were covered with posters of David Cassidy much to the dismay of my parents. There is light and shade to the story, with references to racism and prejudice and it has clearly been well researched. A memorable supporting cast of characters and a story with surprises and revelations make this one to enjoy. Highly recommended.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Fiona Cane is ‘a natural storyteller, with a vivid writing style that is eminently readable.’ Best selling author Peter James.

Fiona was born and educated in Sussex. After graduating from Exeter University with a degree in Philosophy, she worked in London in film, tv and entertainment PR, before moving back to Sussex with her husband and young family. When she wasn’t coaching tennis or looking after her two children, she was scratching away at her latest novel.

Her books cover several genres: cosy mystery, psychological thriller, literary thriller and coming of age. The one thing all five have in common is they will keep you turning the page.

For news and updates: www.fionacane.com

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