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 am a devoted fan of Louise Beeches writing, so I am admitting now, that this is going to be an unapologetically gushing review.
Here we have on the surface a book about two sisters, separated as children following the death of their parents. The older of the two now an adult, sets out to discover more about her past and to try and solve the mystery around the sudden disappearance of her sister as a child. Now that all seems pretty run of the mill, but in the hands of Louise Beech it is so much more, becoming a mediation on grief, loss, love and longing.
The story is delivered straight from the heart and is full of emotional poignancy. It is powerful, startlingly honest and it’s greatest gift to the reader, is the way the writer taps into our shared experiences of loss and longing. Most of us at some point have suffered the loss of a loved one, leaving us feeling incomplete and so will feel an instant connection with the story being told. Louise Beech adds an extra dimension to this though, with a story about the death of a loved one and the disappearance of another. Leaving Heather to deal with one loss that at least on the surface has a sense of closure and a never ending longing to know the fate of her younger sister. It adds dimension and layers to a story that other writers would shy away from, for fear of overloading the reader with too much emotion. But grief and loss is complex and the writer trusts the reader to know the pain her characters suffer from is found in many forms and asks them to embrace it.
Heather’s anguish felt all the more real to me, because for us and her the pain has the potential to be an open wound throughout her life. She tapped into the complex feelings of adopted children who are searching for answers and created from it a character of who feels sad and lost at the beginning of the story, but comes alive as the journey through the story progresses. Because she learns to trust, not just those around her which is never easy, but herself. With Nothing Else the writer never seeks to make a cheap emotional story, but delivers one that brings Heather’s story to life like the petals of a flower, blooming as the sun warms them.
It is rare for any book to make me feel a sense of longing that a character finds the answers they need, to find the love that was ripped from them. I can think of only a few, one being Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles which found me so desperate that Achilles and Patroclus find each other before I reached the last page, that I felt my heart being wrenched out of alignment. I felt a similar need for Heather to find the answers she needed, to know what happened to her sister and find closure. That is solely down the the quality of the narrative and the writers ability to make me care. As I read the last part of the book, I felt an ache in my chest that I prayed would be eased by the last page. She threatened to break my heart, but also promised me and Heather the hope of happiness. As perverse as it sounds to a non reader maybe, isn’t this the feeling we are looking for in the novels we read, the delicious pain created deep in our souls about characters we have come to love? An inborn sense of yearning for a character to find peace or if they can’t, that we understand and embrace our hearts being toyed with.
That dear readers is why you should read Nothing Else!
You can purchase this novel directly from the publisher Orenda Books
From Waterstones and Amazon
About the author
Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The follow-up, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice. Louise lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull. All six of Louise’s books have been digital bestsellers.
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