sultry | immersive | pure escapism | hedonistic | lustrous
what it says on the cover …
Behind every greatest hit, is an even greater love story.
THE SUMMER OF 1969
From the moment Jane Quinn steps barefoot onto the main stage at Island Folk festival, her golden hair glinting, her voice soaring into the summer dusk, a star is born – and so is a passionate love story.
Jane’s band hits the road with none other than Jesse Reid, the musician whose bright blue eyes are setting hearts alight everywhere. And as the summer streaks by in a haze of crowds, wild nights and magenta sunsets, Jane is pulled into the orbit of Jesse’s star.
But Jesse’s rise could mean Jane’s fall. And when she discovers a dark secret beneath his music, she picks up her guitar and writes her heartache into the album that could make or break her: Songs in Ursa Major.
Set against the heady haze of the 70s and alive with music, sex and sun-soaked hedonism, Songs in Ursa Major is an unforgettable debut and the soundtrack to a love story like no other.
PUBLISHED: 24th June 2021
SHELF: Fiction | Romance | Music
AUTHOR: Emma Brodie
FORMATS: Hardback | Kindle
my review …
It is an absolute pleasure to be launching the HarperCollinsUK #blogtour for 🎶Songs In Ursa Major🎶 today. I hope you enjoy my review of this deliciously escapist and sultry novel.
If ever a cover more perfectly conveyed the vibe of the story within, I don’t think I’ve seen it. Those colours conjure up mellow summer evenings. The ‘static’ flecks bring to mind the inimitable enjoyment of listening to music on vinyl (showing my age there). And the direct gaze of the cover girl is something you will come to discover is a perfect depiction of the book’s protagonist, Jane Quinn.
Songs In Ursa Major is a vibrant, escapist book, thrumming with the intoxicating radiance that uniquely envelopes music festivals. I adore a book that moves you to lose yourself entirely in the whole experience behind the story, so I’ll admit I had a false start in my reading … after just two chapters I had to stop to create an era-inspired playlist, before giving myself back up to Emma Brodie’s storytelling … playlist on repeat in the background.
Partly inspired by the true-life relationship between Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, this book makes a captivating, inventive play with fact, fiction and reminiscence, conjuring a portrait of an innately talented and idealistic artist. The author creates a vivid depiction of the music industry, gamely harnessing the spirit and liberation of the era, against a prevailing headwind of establishment patriarchy, transcribing it to the page in a beguiling, homespun American accent. Her decision to punctuate the novel with song lyrics enhances the moments of joy and pathos, speaking to the reader in ways the narrative couldn’t.
In Jane and Jesse, the author has created two characters whose gravitas and geniality drew me in to the book like a star-struck groupie. The course of their relationship is a delight to follow, and although their love doesn’t run smooth, the chemistry between them was pure butterflies, which I have to applaud the author for depicting so enticingly. Likewise, the author’s provocation of so many emotional responses to key points in the story: rage against the overwhelming misogyny of the music industry at that time; pity as the truth behind Jane’s mother’s heartbreaking story makes itself known; worry for Jesse’s spiralling drug addiction … all counterbalanced by the buoyant, freewheeling joy of the music, and Jane’s ascendancy from small-town act to global icon.
From The Breakers – Jane’s band – to Jesse’s bandmates, and Willy Lambert (their shared A&R man at Pegasus records), the two stars of the story are surrounded by a cast of characters I really enjoyed getting to know. Even the odious and unprincipled industry men; they bring the tension, friction and inflammatory iniquity to the story. And then there’s Jane’s grandmother, aunt and cousin; the independent, forthright women who’ve raised Jane since she was nine years old, shaping her into the principled and strong-minded character who you just can’t help admiring.
The writing style has a something akin to chasteness to it; it’s particularly noticeable in the first half of the book, but it matures and relaxes as the story progresses. From time to time the conversations between characters felt stilted and unnatural, and occasionally I felt I was having a scenario or metaphor drily explained to me rather than feeling truly drawn in to the experience … but, again, I became less aware of this the further I lost myself into the book. Having said this however, I can’t fault the author’s gift for creating a vivacious and hugely enjoyable story; one that’s lustrously rich in context, bursting with authenticity, and suffused with an immersive sense of time and place.
It would be remiss of me not to briefly touch upon the echoes of similarities with Daisy Jones & The Six. Yes, they’re both rooted in the flourishing music scene of the 60s and 70s, but it does’t feel right to hold up a debut novel for comparison against an accomplished literary icon. This book deserves every bit of shelf space, just as it deserves to be considered for its own merits. Ursa Major is a hugely enjoyable story which, in my opinion, is a gift to fans of Daisy Jones … it bestows us with the opportunity to experience that wonderful afterglow all over again.
Read this book with bare feet, curling your toes into the cool grass. Make a daisy chain, don a wrist full of bangles, tinted sunnies, and some glitter face paint, and set up an epic backing playlist. Songs In Ursa Major satisfies serious cravings for something a bit more purist, sunny and authentic … embrace it.
Thank you to HarperCollins and Jen Harlow for arranging this blog tour, and for sending me a beautiful finished hardback copy of Songs In Ursa Major. And thanks also to NetGalley for approving my request for a digital copy … proving you can’t have too much of a good thing.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my honest review of this book.
If this book sounds like one you’d love to read too, here’s a selection of purchase links:
• To buy direct from the author/publisher, click ☞ here
• To support independent local bookshops, click ☞ here
• To feed your Waterstones ‘plus’ loyalty card, click ☞ here
• And of course, here is the ubiquitous Amazon link
Don’t just take my word for how great this book is! Check out the superb reviews to follow over the coming fortnight, written by the other bloggers on this tour …
Emma Brodie, is currently an Executive Editor at Little Brown’s Voracious imprint. Over her ten years in book publishing, she’s worked at Trident Media Group, William Morrow, and Clarkson Potter, where she authored over twenty gift books and games, including the bestselling Punderdome, Deal or Duel, Come As You Aren’t, and Dear Jane, and published authors including Awkwafina, Anna Drezen, Nathan W. Pyle, Marlee Grace, Leah Rachel, Conn Igguldon, Ash + Chess, Deborah Hanekamp, Ginny Hogan, Rebecca Fishbein, and Emma Gray. Emma is along time contributor to HuffPost and a faculty member at Catapult, Co. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their dog, Freddie Mercury.
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