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SET IN THE AILING TOWN OF BRIDGEFORD, ‘a tiny, inconsequential dot on the landscape of Britain’, where businesses are closing, the streets are littered with scratch cards and local spirit is at all-time low, Gill Hornby’s latest novel, All Together Now, focuses on the power of music to unite.

all together now pbAs the town struggles, it’s up to the Bridgeford Community Choir to save the day by winning the county competition – no mean feat, as the choir is a straggling, dispirited bunch of singers, slightly lost and rather defeated, when the book opens. Matters come to a head though, after their choir mistress is injured in a car crash and the choir goes on an active recruiting drive.

While newbies like the baffled and life-challenged Bennett and woman-with-a-secret Tracey inject new blood into the group, they must also learn to rub along with the old guard, as embodied by big-hearted Annie and ‘Bridgeford Man’ Lewis, if the choir is to endure. And to do so, it must adapt and change, reforming and reshaping itself into something new, better and bright.

Breaking away from the music of its past –The Sound of Music and Les Mis – the choir embraces a whole new repertoire of songs by artists from Simon and Garfunkel and Meatloaf to Pharrell Williams and Curtis Mayfield – and in doing so, it helps kickstart itself and Bridgeford back to life, propelling it into the 21st century.

With the humour and wit first seen in her very successful debut The Hive, Hornby draws on her own experiences as a member of a rock choir to artfully conjure up the struggles and triumphs of a small town singing group.

‘There has been an explosion of community choirs,’ she says, ‘and it’s the human spirit replacing what the church would have given a community 100 years ago. Standing side by side with strangers once a week, singing, clapping and performing the same actions is intimate.’ And for Hornby herself, it’s a ‘joy’; as is this book itself.

All Together Now is an extremely charming, funny and heartwarming read. And I’ll bet you, if you don’t already belong to a choir, you’ll soon be searching out your local music group from one of the many sites that Hornby supplies at the end of the book, while listening to her playlist, of course.

Go on… Just sing. Sing a song

 

All Together Now by Gill Hornby • Published 2 June 2016 • Paperback edition • £7.99

 

This review is published as part of the All Together Now blog tour. For the other participants and reviews, please see the following poster:

 

All Together Now blog tour poster pt 1

 

Image and text credits: Cover courtesy of Grace Vincent, Publicity Manager, Little Brown Group, who we also thank for including us in the book blog tour. Author quote from ‘Interview with Gill Hornby’, Independent online, 20 June 2015.

 

Also of interest: Chris Whitaker’s mad, mad world – Tall Oaks; Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952) – E. McNight Kauffer (book covers we love); ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”; ‘Antonia Hayes’ Relativity – when good people do bad things’; ‘A.D. Miller’s The Faithful Couple – a tale of friendship, rivalry and regret’; ‘An Alaskan Epic – Rosamund Lupton’s The Quality of Silence; ‘The beauty of Sara Taylor’s The Shore, a breathtaking debut’, ‘“Amethyst and flowers on the table”, the beauty of Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie and Lowell, a review‘.

 

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