The History of Sound

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Pub Date 7 Nov 2024 | Archive Date Not set

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Soon to be a major movie starring Paul Mescal and Josh O’Connor

'Exquisitely crafted, deeply imagined, exhilaratingly diverse, The History of Sound places Ben Shattuck firmly among the very finest of our storytellers' - Geraldine Brooks, New York Times bestselling author of Horse

In twelve luminous stories set across three centuries, The History of Sound examines the unexpected ways the past returns to us and how love and loss are entwined and transformed over generations. In Ben Shattuck's ingenious collection, each story has a companion story, which contains a revelation about the previous, paired story. Mysteries and murders are revealed, history is refracted, and deep emotional connections are woven through characters and families.

The haunting title story recalls the journey of two men who meet around a piano in a smoky, dim bar, only to spend a summer walking the Maine woods collecting folk songs in the shadow of the First World War, forever marked by the odyssey. Decades later, in another story, a woman discovers the wax cylinders recorded that fateful summer while cleaning out her new house in Maine. Shattuck’s inventive, exquisite stories transport readers from 1700s Nantucket to the contemporary woods of New Hampshire and beyond—into landscapes both enduring and unmistakably modern. Memories, artefacts, paintings, and journals resurface in surprising and poignant ways among evocative beaches, forests, and orchards, revealing the secrets, misunderstandings, and love that linger across centuries.

Written with breathtaking humanity and humor, The History of Sound is a love letter to New England, a radiant conversation between past and present, and a moving meditation on the abiding search for home.

Soon to be a major movie starring Paul Mescal and Josh O’Connor

'Exquisitely crafted, deeply imagined, exhilaratingly diverse, The History of Sound places Ben Shattuck firmly among the very finest of...

Advance Praise

'Shattuck has recovered what was thought lost - in American history, natural history, and unspoken human longing - and returned it to us on the page. These stories are unlike anything on your bookshelf. I love The History of Sound and you will too. Get it now' - Andrew Sean Greer

'Beautifully constructed, emotionally resonant, and richly rooted in the natural world, these stories chime memorably through time and space' - Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever and Natural History

'The History of Sound is much more than a stunning short story collection - the best I’ve read in more than a decade - it’s a seductive cluster of interweaving narratives that will keep you turning the pages even as you savor each story’s specificity, heart, and wit. Ben Shattuck writes about music, painting, history, and the natural world with such authority and grace, but it’s his characters that stay with you in their desperate attempts to make sense of this inexplicable world. I can’t wait to read whatever Ben Shattuck has coming next' - Nathaniel Philbrick, author of In the Heart of the Sea, Mayflower, and Travels with George

'Ben Shattuck’s stories are stunning: enthralling, suspenseful, and haunting; often witty and always deeply moving. Like Alice Munro and Andrea Barrett, he has a keen eye for the mysterious intersections of human nature with nature itself—and a knack for capturing the span of an entire life in a single tale, each resonating with others to create a book about history, destiny, and the way we live now. At the end, I longed for more' - Julia Glass, author of Vigil Harbor and Three Junes

'In braiding themselves together, The History of Sound’s stories generate the most ingenious and pleasing and moving evocation of New England, in all its seasonal and geographic variety. Over time—from 1696 to Radiolab—mysteries posed in one story are off-handedly addressed years later in another, protagonists become someone else’s minor character, and fates are meted out as each new narrative throws a crucial contextualizing light upon the other. Ben Shattuck is a devoted magpie: these stories celebrate the earth’s music and bounty, and remind us how diminished we are when severed from who and what we loved' - Jim Shepard, author of The Book of Aron and Like You'd Understand, Anyway

'The stories in this beautifully written book toggle between the past and the present, and their subjects include the natural world in and around New England, and, within that natural world, a cultural landscape that includes music, faith, love, and murder. Ben Shattuck is a gifted writer who is wonderfully generous and wide-ranging in his concerns. He cares deeply about those in peril, those in need of help and aid, and his imagination goes out to them. Like the novelists of the 19th century, he looks upon the world with wonder, as if no one had ever really seen it or its secrets or made an account of it before. In every sense, this is a wonderful book' - Charles Baxter, author of Feast of Love and There's Something I Want You to Do

'Shattuck has recovered what was thought lost - in American history, natural history, and unspoken human longing - and returned it to us on the page. These stories are unlike anything on your...

Available Editions

EDITION Paperback
ISBN 9781800754805
PRICE £14.99 (GBP)

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Featured Reviews

Ben Shattuck’s carefully constructed The History of Sound comprises twelve stories, each with a companion piece, an idea summed up by one of the book’s epigraphs: ‘The second half of the couplet often completes the sentence or sentiment of the first’. A writer stumbles upon the mystery of what happened to a logging crew, solved in a journal of the crew’s daily life which becomes increasingly dark, for instance. A present-day story of love and regeneration sparked by a puzzling thirty-year-old photo of a Great Auk, long thought extinct, is touchingly resolved in the next piece. The opening and closing stories satisfyingly bookend the whole.
Set largely in New England, Shattuck’s engrossing collection crisscross centuries, exploring themes of love, loss, art and the natural world in lyrical, poetic but elegantly understated prose, often rooted in the dramatic landscape in which they're set. Highly recommend this one, and not just to short story fans.

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