Nothing Else by Louise Beech @orendabooks @RandomTTours

Heather Harris is a piano teacher and professional musician, whose quiet life revolves around music, whose memories centre on a single song that haunts her. A song she longs to perform again. A song she wrote as a child, to drown out the violence in their home. A song she played with her little sister, Harriet.

But Harriet is gone … she disappeared when their parents died, and Heather never saw her again.

When Heather is offered an opportunity to play piano on a cruise ship, she leaps at the chance. She’ll read her recently released childhood care records by day – searching for clues to her sister’s disappearance – and play piano by night … coming to terms with the truth about a past she’s done everything to forget.

An exquisitely moving novel about surviving devastating trauma, about the unbreakable bond between sisters, Nothing Else is also a story of courage and love, and the power of music to transcend – and change – everything

I adore this authors books and devour them as soon as they come through the letterbox. Every book is so different but their common theme is usually family and relationships as Louise Beech understands what makes us human (different book I know but it’s title sums up perfectly what Louise does!) and uses her poignant and perfectly pitched prose to unravel the complexities of our connections with others. Every book she has written seems to delve deeply into my own emotions and Nothing Else was no different.

Heather lives a quiet life with no children or family, just an ex-husband and a best friend. Her parents died when she was young and her sister Harriet disappeared when they were sent to a childrens home. So when her friend encourages her to take a job on a cruise ship as their resident piano player, she decides to take a chance and do something very much out of her comfort zone. Heather is a talented musician and as we flash back to her life before tragedy takes hold, we see where her love of music and performing comes from and why it is so important to her now. There are obviously some very distressing issues covered here-domestic violence and the care system in the UK-but Louise handles these perfectly using her conscious flow of words to show the horror of what Heather goes through but through the eyes of her devotion to her mother, her sister and her music.

I found the parts where Heather gets hold of her care records incredibly moving. These documents were very clinical and of their time so I found it quite heartbreaking to read them. But I loved seeing Heather change during her time on the cruise ship as she gradually tries to unravel the reasons for Harriet’s disappearance by reading her records for the first time. Her emotions started to unlock her years of self protection and memories came flooding back.

Obviously music is at the heart of Nothing Else which is also the name of the song Heather composed and played with Harriet by her side. I could almost hear the piano playing as she once again reached a place where the music became the beating heart of who she was. Louise has produced a playlist for anyone who wants or needs to hear the exact music she writes about here-a wonderfully varied range from classical to modern that works beautifully with the storyline. Music is such a wonderful counsellor, opening the soul to confession and forgiveness, delivering therapy to those who often don’t even realise they need it. Music makes us smile, relax and cry-a powerful distraction for the mind and used brilliantly as the pivotal role in Nothing Else.

I absolutely loved this-the relationship between two sisters, supporting each other through their music and the love they have for each other, felt emotionally overwhelming at times but that’s because it so authentic. It’s a beautifully written pilgrimage of self discovery, emotionally lyrical, delivering a novel that sometimes felt too personal to read. Louise Beech has done it again and written a book that will be appearing all over those “Best of 2022” lists at the end of the year and I felt very privileged to read it.

Louise’s debut novel, How to be Brave, was a Guardian Readers’ pick in 2015 and a top ten bestseller on Amazon. The Mountain in my Shoe longlisted for the Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize 2016. The Sunday Mirror called Maria in the Moon ‘quirky, darkly comic, original and heartfelt’. It was also a Must Read in the Sunday Express and a Book of the Year at LoveReadingUK. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was described as ‘engrossing and captivating’ by the Daily Express. It also shortlisted for the RNA’s Romantic Novel of the Year and longlisted for the Polari Prize 2019. Call Me Star Girl hit number one on Kobo. It also longlisted for the Not The Booker Prize and won the Best magazine Big Book Award 2019. This Is How We Are Human was a Clare Mackintosh August Book of the Month 2021. My memoir Daffodils is out now in audiobook, and novel Nothing Else is published in June.

Link to her website – http://louisebeech.co.uk/

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jorobertson2015

I am a Norfolk girl living in leafy Cheshire with my grumpy Scotsman. A mum and nana who lives for my family but who is also addicted to reading (and Marmite!) I will read almost anything but my preferred genres to review are psychological thrillers, crime procedural novels or women's fiction. My kindle is my life but I also have a substantial bookshelf in my cosy reading room where I can go to escape the stresses of family life with plenty of tea and chocolate. I am a member of netgalley and bookbridg. I review on Amazon, where I'm a Top 500 reviewer, and Goodreads. You can always find me over on Twitter @jocatrobertson for any review requests.

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