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Summary

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

‘What have you been up to?’ 

I shrug, ‘Just existing, I guess.’ 

‘Looks like more than just existing.’ 

Robert gestures at the baby, the lifeboat, the ocean.  

‘All right, not existing. Surviving.’ 

He laughs, not unkindly. ‘Sounds grim.’ 

‘It wasn’t so bad, really. But I wish you’d been there.’ 

Ella has known Robert all her life. 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....

©2020 Joe Heap (P)2020 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic reviews

"A truly original, bittersweet tale of life, loss and enduring love that had me completely hooked. A treasure of a book!" (Sunday Times best seller Ruth Hogan) 

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"Nobody gets life right"

This, Joe Heap's second novel, is exceptional - stunning in the way that it's so vital, real and heart-breaking as it flows through the past and present, it leaves you reeling. When the Music Stops opens with 87 year-old Ella in a sinking ship clutching her baby grandson, It's the scene to which the many narratives return as Ella's life is played out in sections from early childhood to the present time in the boat and, briefly, beyond. Ella is confused by the present, but not by the past and slowly we realise that the people with her as she clings to the baby are all those whom she has loved and lost through her life. The musicality of the book's structure and the powerful effects of suggestion and what is left unsaid are from the realms of poetry, whilst the dialogue and narratives have the stark clarity of prose. This sounds a depressing scenario but Joe Heap, who writes poetry as well as prose, handles it all as one long prose poem united by the music which Ella plays expertly on her guitar, and which bound her to fellow musician Robert with whom she played when she was 18. Her undeclared love for him has been the one constant in her life. Through wartime Glasgow childhood (the whole is read in a strong Glasgow accent which adds to the raw reality of it all), through the wild 60s, through a loveless marriage, work as a nurse, Ella and Robert converge at long intervals, but as Robert ruefully reflects, 'Nobody gets life right'. The story's poignancy will find an echo in every listener's heart. The ending is both heart-rending and uplifting. It's a novel of what ifs, if onlys, saids and not saids, what could have beens... Don't miss it.