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22nd June 2014 – Book Review: The Unfinished Symphomy of You and Me by Lucy Robinson

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Summer has already seen some amazing books from the likes of great and well-established authors, however few books have the quality to suck you in and make you feel a myriad of emotions and involve you from page one. You do not want such books to end and feel like you have lost your best friend when the book is over.

Lucy Robinson’s ‘The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me’ is undoubtedly one of the best (if not the best) book that I have read this summer. In the great tradition of Cecelia Ahern and Jojo Moyes, Robinson’s books offer the reader humour, passion, grief, friendship and tragedy in equal measure. It would be unfair to call this book ‘chick lit’ because although it has several funny moments and the story is told in a light-hearted manner, the main subject matter and the underlying subject matter is anything but light.

‘The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me’ is Sally’s tale of unfulfilled wishes, yearning for acceptance and her unfounded but well-meaning love, care and sense of responsibility for her errant, orphaned cousin Fiona. Sally is your normal, average looking girl who has spent her youth in a council estate. However, Sally has a secret talent that no one knows about….she is an amazingly gifted, naturally talented, opera singer. Hers is a raw, untapped talent which had not been tapped into yet, as this is not something which would be recognised or indeed accepted by her poor, council estate family. Added to this, her family has already been devastated in the past by the suicidal death of her aunt (and Fiona’s mother) amidst much scandal and notoriety. Fiona’s mother was also a performer and her mother has not quite gotten over the incident.

Thus, Sally spends a few uneventful years as a wardrobe mistress at the Royal Opera House, getting close to her beloved opera but not in the capacity of singer as nature intended her to be. A sudden, brilliant opportunity comes along to work in a production in New York  and persuaded by her friends, the very gay and entertaining Barry, the rich, worldly Bea and Fiona, Lucy agrees to go state side. There she meets the brilliant, artistic, slightly eccentric Jullian Bell and then starts a beautiful love story which guides the course of this novel. Jullian and Sally are beautiful together, they are similarly shy, strange, charming and brilliantly talented. When these two come together, it makes absolute and perfect sense. What casts a pall on their amazing relationship is Sally’s cousin Fiona’s self-destructive tendencies and habits in her endless pursuit to become a first class ballerina. A very tragic climax culminates ending Sally’s brief sojourn in USA and she returns to Britain, feeling betrayed and grief-stricken, her relationship with her family wrecked. However, the events have armed her with a hesitant determination to pursue her singing and she goes to study music in the Royal College of Music.

While at there, Sally meets a host of colourful characters, including arguably the best character in this novel, Jan Borsos, the Hungarian singer who travels through Europe wearing one shoe to attend the college. He. is. absolutely. hilarious!!!! From his comical turn of phrase and liberal usage of the English Language to his absolutely ludicrous anecdotes, Jan is laugh a minute and provides the much needed humour in the novel in dark situations. Notable characters also are Violet, Sally’s love rival and competitor and Hannah, Sally’s confidante and friend at the college.

Read the novel to find out what transpires at the college and how our heroine blossoms from a shy, retiring and not entirely confident caterpillar into a beautiful, self-assured and fearless butterfly. Like all good love stories, this one does have a happy ending but not before taking the reader through a roller coaster ride of emotions. While reading the I experienced a multitude of emotions, confusion, sadness, despair, elation and ultimately satisfaction. The author delivers quite a few dramatic shocks in the novel that pack quite a punch and will leave you reeling. My only criticism is that in the middle of the novel, the central characters made a few relationship choices that I could not understand. I felt that those choices were unnecessary, but that’s just my opinion. Ultimately, the novel is well-written and this does not take anything away from the story.

All I can say is put this novel on the top of your ‘To Be Read’ pile now, you will not be disappointed. I have given it a full five stars as I think this novel definitely deserves it!

‘The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me’ is published by Penguin and is out now.

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