Mrs. Callaghan? he asked. Would they sing the same songs we play?
So we’re learning homesick songs?
All songs are homesick songs, Finn.
Even the happy ones?
Especially the happy ones.
Emma Hooper’s second book, Our Homesick Songs, is set in a fishing village near Newfoundland called Big Running. And in this novel that I can primarily describe with the word ‘quiet’, the focus is upon the Connor family: a couple and their two children living in the village. In this small village the fishes are slowly diminishing, and as a result the people in the village are moving to the big city and leaving the village, while the Connor family struggles to keep living there with hopes that the village will once again be filled with people.
Title: Our Homesick Songs
Author: Emma Hooper
Genres: Literary fiction, family
Publisher: Simon Schuster
Page number: 336 pgs
Expected publication: August 14th, 2018
Through two different timelines and different point of views of the family members: the mother Martha, the father Aidan, and the two children Cora and Finn, we discover each characters’ feelings and thoughts and also the parents’ pasts. The characters are all quiet and introspective, and I think that was what the entire book felt like. There weren’t that many huge scenes or moments in the book, nothing action-packed or hugely eventful. Everything felt very mellow and melancholic, and very deep in thought.
The writing style of the book was wonderful. I don’t normally enjoy stories that have no quotation marks, but in this book, the absence of quotation marks do not make the readers confused as to whether who was talking. It made everything flow together, as if we are not reading a novel but more of a poem.
The atmosphere was described perfectly and lyrically using beautifully chosen words. The element music was incorporated very nicely as well into the book, with snippets of lyrics but also descriptions of the songs itself. Hooper really did her research on songs from the old times, and her hard work regarding this part of the story was really well integrated into sections and scenes of the book. Her love for music and how music affects people’s lives were really shown in the story, and you can feel that love from the characters’ love towards music as well. It was a huge theme in the story and was wonderful to read about.
Another theme that was dominant in the book was nature, and the descriptions of Big Running, the sea, the winter, felt very real and atmospheric. The different weathers throughout the book, from the storms and the coldness seeping into their layers of sweaters, to the rain or fog takes the readers to the event itself. It made me want to visit the village and meet the Connors, and want to learn how to fish or weave nets.
Overall the storyline was nothing spectacular. It was slow and simple, but I think the writer’s point was not to make it confusing or dense or exciting, it was more of a focus on characters and setting, and feelings and weather and music. The relationship of the family members were the main story, and their actions that make up the plot were all related to their connections with not only each other, but also their home, the village, the outside world, and most importantly themselves.
Cora and Finn were on the ferry, going west. The sun had set and their parents were asleep, leaning against each other, surrounded by bags and boxes. There was no one else there. It was too foggy to see out the windows, to check for boat lights or anything else. Too quiet and late for music, too much pull of the sea for reading. There was nothing to do but tell stories. Tell this story.
And then? asked Cora.
And then everything, said Finn.
In summary this book is very much an insight to family life. How every family is not perfect, and neither is anyone. It showcases the love a mother has for their children, and the love of two parents for each other that does not only involve the love they had for each other when they first fell in love, but also a deeper and older love they grew as they made their family. It also shows the thoughts and feelings of young adults perfectly, as well as conflicts both internal and external of young people and adults alike.
Combining themes of nature, music and love, Emma Hooper has successfully woven a beautiful story about family, happiness, loneliness and togetherness into a passionate and unique look at a small family in a small village. It was a joy to read, and I hope you all read it too.
Huge thanks to Net Galley for providing me with an Advanced Reader’s Copy in exchange for an honest review.
Our Homesick Songs will be published in 14th August, 2018.