A Song Unsung by Fiona Cane
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.
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.
Firstly, apologies I am a few weeks late with my review due to an enforced break.
It was a few years ago now that I read The Other Side of the Mountain by Fiona Cane and really loved the story that was set in 2001 in Haiti. Fiona now returns with her latest novel which is now her fifth novel, A Song Unsung (Caracol Books) that if you like me, you love jazz music, then you will love the storyline as Jazz is very much the backdrop.
This is a remarkable novel so beautifully constructed with two leading characters in Martha and Natasha and two decades being the 1950’s and the 1970’s.
First, we meet Martha Palmer in Soho, London and it is 1958. Martha is basically just existing and is struggling to make ends meet since leaving home and she is desperate to just earn enough to pay her rent. There is however one thing that Martha does love and that is to sing. She dreams of being a singer, but these are just dreams of another life as right now Martha is at dead end and is now desperate for cash. Then one day she happens to meet someone who change her life and this encounter leads to her to meeting a photographer. Sometimes when a promise of a new life comes up there is always a catch.
Fast forward to Sussex in 1976 and a young Natasha James is thinking that her own life is bored and that something is really missing in her life to give her that spark. With her mother who has withdrawn from life and a father who is a doctor and seemingly more interested in his practice than home. Then that missing spark arrives when Martha Palmer has moved into the local area and Natasha is captivated by her.
But behind the Martha there are so many secrets that she is desperate to keep locked away, but Natasha is more than just captivated by her, she is wants to know more about Martha Palmer and this is where there is a whole new story of a past, a love story that could really threaten everything.
I have had a love of jazz music for longer than I can recall and having spent many years in London and the sights and sounds of jazz clubs this brought back memories and Fiona’s writing about the music is really a story that comes alive to the soundtrack to jazz music. I enjoyed both the leading characters thought both different people they both have real personalities for different reasons.
There is a story that lurks beneath, and you do not know how this is going to go as you read through A Song Unsung as there are many secrets that are like a jigsaw puzzle just waiting to be pieced together.
If you are looking for a book for that summer weekend away, then I would recommend Fiona Cane’s latest and make sure you have a jazz soundtrack to play in the background.
My thanks to Fiona Cane for the review copy of A Song Unsung.
A Song Unsung is published by Caracol Books and was released on 20th May 2021 and is available to order through Amazon.