Have you ever read a book featuring a fictional musician and thought ‘I wish I could hear their work in real life?’
Cass Wheeler, the lead character in Laura Barnett’s new book, Greatest Hits, had such an interesting, attractive and authentic voice on the page. I felt sure she had to be real and was so disappointed when I discovered that wasn’t the case. Then I read about an innovative project between the author and singer songwriter Kathryn Williams, which will bring the songs from the book to life.
An album of 16 tracks, entitled Songs From The Novel Greatest Hits, with music by Mercury-nominated Kathryn and lyrics by them both, is being released alongside the book.
How cool is that? I’ve listened to the first song, Common Ground, from the collaboration and it’s perfect. There’s no other way to describe it.
Before we get into more detail, here’s the blurb for the book:
One day. 16 songs. The soundtrack of a lifetime…
Alone in her studio, Cass Wheeler is taking a journey back into her past. After a silence of ten years, the singer-songwriter is picking the 16 tracks that have defined her – 16 key moments in her life – for a uniquely personal Greatest Hits album.
In the course of this one day, both ordinary and extraordinary, the story of Cass’s life emerges – a story of highs and lows, of music, friendship and ambition, of great love and great loss. But what prompted her to retreat all those years ago, and is there a way for her to make peace with her past?
Daughter. Mother. Singer. Lover. What are the memories that mean the most?
This is Laura’s follow up to the hugely successful The Versions Of Us and I think she has another hit on her hands.
It was one of those books where I was frustrated and, at times, a little bit cross to have to put it down and do real life things.
It’s complex, intense and bittersweet. Although it covers several decades, it doesn’t feel like there are massive jumps and it flows beautifully. The book is well-researched and steeped in nostalgia (for some reason it made me think about my first clunky old Walkman, which I adored, for the first time in years). It’s an altogether unique experience – and that’s before you even get to the music.
As I got further engrossed, I longed to hear Cass sing, which is why I went looking to see if she was a real artist. Instead I discovered the fantastic project between Laura and Kathryn, which surely has to be the next best thing.
When announcing the album, Laura, who is also a freelance journalist, feature writer and theatre critic, said: “From the earliest moment of coming up with the idea for Greatest Hits, it was clear to me that I wanted my character’s musical output to have a life beyond the page. I’ve been a fan of Kathryn’s music for years and I’m so thrilled to be working with her – she’s an absolute magician, and I’m so excited about the creative possibilities posed by drawing literature and music together in this way.”
I’m intrigued to see how the album, which is realeased under the One Little Indian label, does, but one thing is for sure – it’s safe to say Laura, like Cass, is no one hit wonder.
My rating: Four and a half stars.
With thanks to Orion Publishing Group for the ARC in return for an honest review.