When the Music Stops

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Pub Date 29 Oct 2020 | Archive Date 1 Apr 2022


The stunning new novel from the author of The Rules of Seeing. 

Praise for Joe Heap:

‘Astonishing’ Ruth Hogan

‘A tender, tense drama about love and the unexpected places you can find it’ Sunday Express

‘A quirky love story which promises to make you see the world in a completely new way’ Daily Mail

‘Joe Heap’s fascinating debut makes you think about the things most of us take for granted’  Good  Housekeeping

This is the story of Ella.
And Robert.
And of all the things they should have said, but never did.

Through seven key moments and seven key people their journey intertwines.
From the streets of Glasgow during WW2 to the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll of London in the 60s and beyond, this is a story of love and near misses. Of those who come in to our lives and leave it too soon. And of those who stay with you forever…

The stunning new novel from the author of The Rules of Seeing. 

Praise for Joe Heap:

‘Astonishing’ Ruth Hogan

‘A tender, tense drama about love and the unexpected places you can find it’...

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ISBN 9780008293222

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Average rating from 54 members

Featured Reviews

I was so desperate to get hold of this book, the second by Joe Heap, and I was so excited to be granted early access. This book was full of The normal daily life of Ella Campbell, from her childhood in Scotland, to her adult life in London. It’s told with detail, depth and feeling. I was quickly drawn into the lives of the characters, and wondering how the flashbacks fitted into the current story.

Gradually Ella’s life Is revealed, as she lives her life, as she meets and loses people, I became more and more interested in every aspect of her life. I was totally lost in this book, invested in the characters, and feeling that I really knew them, was even in the same room as them, watching them and experiencing their delights and heartbreaks on the journey.

I don’t like to add spoilers, but there was one scene that Overwhelmed me, had me crying so I had to put the book down and take a breather. I went back after 15 mins to re-read, and cried again.
This is an epic journey through Ella’s life, full of ups and downs, the mundane, drama and tragedy. Brilliantly told. Joe Heap does not disappoint

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A very enjoyable read which makes you think about your own life. The story is centred around Ella, who grows up in Scotland during WW2. Her life story is woven together with songs which punctuates seven stages of her life.
The story charts her life, from her childhood, through her days as a musician when she plays sessions with some famous bands. It follows her times during the 60s and her dependence on drugs to enhance her playing. Reluctantly, she leaves that life behind, gives up playing music to work in a hospital.
Apart from the songs and music, another thing which weaves through the story, that of the love Ella has for Robert, the brother of her friend at school. They meet at different times in the story, as they are living separate lives, but it is not until they are older that they declare their love for each other.

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Such a lovely story, entwining a missed love story with music
Ella has the start of dementia and awakes on a boat after a storm, with only her baby grandson for company. As the water in the boat rises, she re-lives her life, through her guitar playing, remembering the friends she has lost.
Endearing and beautifully told.

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The most incredible thing about Joe Heap’s When The Music Stops is the way it mixes the ordinary with the extraordinary. In one way it’s a version of David Nicholls’ One Day, but set over a longer period (the protagonists meet in childhood) and in the world of jazz music; the parts of the book that happen in the present day are very surreal indeed.

The clever structure gives the book rhythm. It’s very much tied to the music, so rhythm seems like the right word. It makes for very long chapters (sections, really) but that’s fine, because I didn’t want to put it down. At first you wonder what’s happening in the present day but then it begins to make sense and you expect each section to have a certain chain of events. You even know what will happen in the end. But that’s comforting when the boundaries of your imagination are being stretched in other ways.

The love story running through the book is compelling too and each decade incredibly well researched so you feel each period, rather than words being wasted describing it. Ella and Robert meet as children in pre-war Glasgow and have so many near misses you wonder if they will ever get together. I would have enjoyed it on its own, and have appreciated the quality of the writing, but adding the extra dimension makes this a standout book.

This review will appear in Frost online magazine closer to publication date.

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My first book by this author but not the last.
I was drawn in by the cover and stayed because of the writing. A stunning performance with touches of a modern day Jane Eyre in that invisible space between the pages. Unusual. Rare. Magical. Highly recommended.

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Another winner from Joe Heap. What a storyteller this author is. I loved this book, it is unusual and thought provoking, and beautifully written. It takes us through the life of Ella from when she is a wee girl growing up in Scotland, to old age. How her life intertwines with her childhood friend’s brother Robert is the central theme of the story, but it is so much more than that.
The characterisation is so strong that the reader can identify with Ella, even when her life choices take her to some very dark places. All of the players in this story are well drawn, as they come in and out of Ella’s life.
The style of writing is very different, and to begin with the narrative is a little puzzling. But then it becomes clear how the two timelines are connected.
The use of music, as Ella and Robert are both musicians, is a clever way of linking up the different strands of the story of Ella’s life, and the believable coincidences that bring them back together at various points in time.
The closing chapters are sublime, and brought me to tears. A beautiful ending. This book will remain with me long after I write this review. Highly recommended.
My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for my advance copy of this title.

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I would like to thank the author, the publisher and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read an ARC of this book. A really enjoyable book, I loved the characters and the story.

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I’m swiftly becoming a big fan of Joe Heap! His first novel (The Art of Seeing) was excellent and so is this. It’s a gentle story, in flashback, by an elderly lady suffering from dementia. She is travelling, by boat with her daughter and son in law, when there’s a storm at sea and Ella is left ‘holding the baby’. The story is of her struggle for survival with dementia while the reader learns of her life previously, as a successful guitarist.

I thoroughly recommend this book...

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This was my first read by this author and I can honestly say it won't be my last. The author has a way with words that pulls you in from the very first sentence and takes you on a journey you won't forget for quite some time. In When the Music Stops the main character Ella is suffering from dementia and the story begins with her on a boat with her daughter and grandson. There's a storm and 87 year old Ella finds herself alone with just the baby when she wakes up.

Music plays an integral part in this emotional story and it is the key to unlocking Ella's memories of growing up in Scotland and her life ever since. It's beautifully told and I loved how each of the characters showed up at just the right time and how through it all, Robert remained a constant. Ella's life is revealed through the narrative as we travel between the present and the past and it is wonderfully done.

I was completely gripped by the story and loved how it unfolded even bringing a few tears along the way. It's easy to give this book 5 stars and if you are looking for a story that includes music and love, this is one that you won't regret reading.

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I’m not sure there are words to describe how much I LOVED When the Music Stops by Joe Heap. I just adored everything about it. The premise, the characters, the setting, the writing, the music; they’re all just perfect. I almost want to turn back to the beginning and read it all over again!

It tells the story of Ella’s life through a series of significant or life-changing eras. When we first meet her she’s in her 80s, battling dementia and (almost) alone on a boat in the middle of the sea. We then flashback to her school days before and during the war, and then to various significant periods in her life, meeting her friends and following her careers and different lifestyles along the way. We see how there are certain constant threads that tie her life together, even when everything else seems to change: love, loss and music.

This is such an original and emotional story; I’ve never read anything quite like it. Ella is a fabulous character, and I really admired how she managed to forge a successful career despite, as a woman, the odds being stacked against her. She leads a pretty turbulent life with a lot of difficulties, loss and heartbreak along the way. But she’s a fighter and manages to endure despite it all. From the outset I was invested in her friendship with Robert, a schoolmate and fellow musician who, over the years, she variously loses touch with and finds again. He’s such a loveable character that I couldn’t help but hope that he and Ella would eventually end up together.

When the Music Stops is a book that makes you consider how small actions and decisions might take you on a very different path than the one you originally imagined. It looks at the huge impact that people might have on the lives of others, even if their meeting is only very brief. But most of all it’s just an absolutely brilliant read, one which I unreservedly recommend.

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I was looking forward to this book having really enjoyed the author’s previous book ‘The Rules of Seeing’ which was a cracking read. And this didn’t disappoint either.

It’s based on flashback moments by Ella, an elderly lady suffering from dementia who uses the power of music to relight memories that are shared with us. An emotional book that will even have you questioning some of your own relationships in life.

Another absolutely brilliant story from Joe Heap who treats us to another page turner and I thoroughly recommend this book as well as his first.

Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in return for an honest review.

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This is why I read. For the one book in a thousand that comes along and possesses me, absolutely. For prose so intoxicating, it takes my breath away. And for a character so richly imagined, it’s like she’s stepped from the pages and sat down beside me.

When The Music Stops by Joe Heap has left me reeling. I can barely gather my thoughts to express how beautiful it is. Whatever words I find will not do it justice. Let’s just say, it’s like a precious gem — hold it to the light and every facet will glitter, flawlessly.

Ella Campbell is 87 years old, frail and verging on senile, when the yacht she’s holidaying on with her daughter, son-in-law and baby grandson is caught in a fearful storm. She and the baby are the only survivors. The boat is holed and taking on water. There’s no power and no land in sight.

The narrative moves with the grace of a dancer between two timelines — one following the highs and tragic lows of Ella’s life, the other her valiant struggle to keep her grandson alive.

It is a story woven from the raw threads of human emotion: love and loss, hope and despair, guilt, fear, loneliness, regret. It makes you contemplate life and death, the resilience of the human heart and spirit, and the profound connections we make with people whose paths cross ours.

Heap’s use of musical imagery and metaphor is sublime. Life is a melody, in which music speaks louder than words, in which the record keeps spinning long after the music has stopped.

There are passages in this book that are so visceral, so profoundly moving, they will live with me forever. As for the ending, it broke me completely — I didn’t just weep, I sobbed.

If you read only one more book this year, then let it be this.

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This is a beautifully written story of life, love, loss and serendipity. Music and the number seven define the parameters of this story which explores Ella's life and her lifelong love of Robert. The writing is lyrical, as Ella revisits her past at seven pivotal times and introduces seven characters who left their emotional mark on her life.

The flashbacks are vivid and written with historical details and insight. They immerse the reader into the story and make it believable. Throughout, Ella is authentic and flawed. Her mistakes are a reflection of her humanity, and they make you consider your life and choices. The love story is gentle and tragic, but this is real love, and it's ending is worthy of the angst.

I read this in a day and enjoyed it for its originality, realism and supernatural twist.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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When The Music Stops by Joe Heap is a beautiful contemporary novel about life with its loves and losses.
The story has a serene atmosphere as we see the life an octogenarian has lived. The novel alternates between present day and significant events in her past.
The stories are linked by her love of music. The music remains even as the memory is going due to dementia. It is sad to witness the struggle for words but the power of past memories is huge. Present day is hazy but the past is rich and very much alive. As life is drawing to a close, far from being emptier, it is fuller as the memories of a life lived well mount up.
Every loss hurts. Each loss is unique. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. You never become desensitised to loss. Loss always cuts us to the core.
When The Music Stops is a unique and very beautiful novel. I read it in just one sitting. Pathetic fallacy was employed as an actual storm mirrored the storms of life but the reader feels protected and cocooned by the calm and loving nature of an old lady.
This is such a beautiful book of memories but most of all it is a book of love of a life lived well.
I received this book for free. A favourable review was not required and all views expressed are my own.

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