When I read a book, finding its song is a personal challenge. I want that one song that conveys exactly what I feel about what I’m reading. So, in the following list I’ll tell you about my top five best matches between the perfect songs and the perfect books.
1. Not even a “Famous Blue Raincoat” will save you from the tears with this one.
When I heard Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat” for the first time, my mind instantly flew to Johanna Nadin’s “The Queen of Bloody Everything”. While the song deals with a completely different topic than the book, it had the same lingering sadness, the same greyness to it. A melancholy that goes beyond words and seeps into your very core. It makes you long for a time you maybe never experienced and for the dreams and hopes you lost to “the real world”.
The book follows Dido as she grows up, consisting of memories she recounts to her mother. It’s the complex and thoroughly moving story of a girl that never liked her world and longed for normalcy. Until she understands that her world is defined not by her mother’s mistakes and eccentricity; not by her own past failures and regrets, but by her dreams and hopes – and her determination to move forward.
It can get boring if you generally prefer action-packed books and a lot of dialogue; here it’s mostly about our protagonists inner thoughts and battles. But it’s beautiful. It was a five star read for me and I would’ve given it more if I could have.
And yes, I cried.
2. A fan of “Motion & Side Effects”?
Flight Path’s song accompanied me through “The Raven Cycle” series, adding one final touch that made the series a favorite of mine.
“Poetry in motion, rising from the depth,” the song says; “Undying devotion, a millstone around your neck”. And don’t even get me started on how well the melody suits the story even regardless of the lyrics.
The series follows a group of unlikely friends as they deal with their own stories, as well as the one they created together. Tie all these together with history, magic, dreams, and a hauntingly beautiful setting, and you get all wrapped up in an atmosphere that won’t let you forget the series.
There’s angst, there are wholesome moments, badass characters and a series of events that connect with each other in a mind-blowing cycle, all these sprinkled with a dash of melancholy and a lot of hopefulness, especially towards the end. Much like the song itself.
3. Any “Noteworthy” remarks on “The Clockmaker”?
Riley Redgate (Rioghnach Robinson) wrote an entire original soundtrack to go with her book “Noteworthy”. “The Clockmaker” is part of this soundtrack, and both the lyrics and the melody resonated so deeply with me and the story.
The book follows Jordan as she sings her way to the top, all the while pretending to be a boy. It mainly deals with going beyond imposed limits, but there are a lot of details that add all kinds of layers to the story. She has an Asian background, her father deals with a handicap, her mother works too much, healthcare doesn’t come easily, her school is too expensive, and to top it all off, in the middle of her admittedly successful charade, she realizes her struggles to hide her identity don’t even come close to what a trans-gender person goes through every day.
The story, sprinkled with humor, leaves you rooting for the characters and thoroughly enjoying the bond created between them. And the ending? It could’ve come a couple of pages before it did and it would’ve still been good – bitter-sweet, but good. But no, it went a little further and became perfect.
4. This book and this song are certainly “Fire on Fire”.
Not all heroes wear capes. Jo Kuan certainly doesn’t while she writes an advice column as Miss Sweetie in Stacey Lee’s fantastic historical novel “The Downstairs Girl”. A maid by day and a journalist by night, Jo makes her voice heard when everyone chooses to ignore her.
The novel dives into problems such as race, gender, and social status through a story of family, love and courage that is sure to put a smile on your face. The characters are unique, especially our heroine, whose voice rings loud and true, proving no one should be ignored. And it never gets boring, historical as it is.
This book is powerful.
This is what made me think of Sam Smith’s “Fire on Fire” while reading it. This, and the way the atmosphere created around the story made me feel. Though I was admittedly listening to Zita’s violin cover. Touching and empowering. Both the book and the song.
5. You’ll want to take a break and “Slow Dive” in this one.
I could write an entire essay on why Sven Lions’ “Slow Dive” suits Melina Marcetta’s “On the Jellicoe Road”. With lyrics like “They don’t ever teach us heartache even though it’s gonna hurt”, and “Slow dive, follow me, always, endlessly […] love me til the tether breaks” I am this close to re-reading this book a fourth time.
At a first glance, “On the Jellicoe Road” is just another YA novel. Angsty protagonist, kind of mysterious role-model, high-school setting, some love story thrown in there… . Melina Marcetta is, however, far too brilliant and profound to write an average book. Instead, she writes a masterpiece that deals with family and friendship, loss and love, chance and change; a coming-of-age journey that goes beyond time.
The book consists of two stories that only seem to have the setting in common: the main story – written as any other in terms of narrative, and a secondary one – fragmented and scattered throughout the book, coming together like a broken mirror having its shards slowly glued back together.
The main story follows Taylor as she becomes the leader of an old war between her school and two others. These kids discuss veritable war strategies, plan on conquering territories and blackmail rivals into forfeiting battles. What impressed me most, though, is not the ingenuity and cleverness of all this, but the way our protagonists leave it behind at a certain point, the bonds created between them going deeper than their inherited rivalry, and their stances shifting from fighting, to helping one another.
It’s heart-warming and heart-wrenching. Especially when the two stories finally connect and when a touch of magical realism makes you understand that a tether had truly been broken while these two stories progressed.
And as a bonus, some French to spice it up.
6. “Those who Dream” need this wake up call.
Pomme’s “Ceux qui Rêvent” (“Those who Dream”) is haunting. Amber Smith’s “The Way I Used to Be” is just the same as it describes with raw honesty how dire the effects of rape can be and what kind of circumstances can push someone to remain silent.
It all starts when a friend rapes Eden. A few minutes and a few threats. That’s all it takes for her life to go downhill. “Ceux qui rêvent ont bien de la chance, Et les autres ont des insomnies” – “Those who dream have quite the luck, And the others, they have insomnia.”
“Et moins je dors et plus je pense, Et plus je pense et moins j’oublie” – “And the less I sleep, the more I think, And the more I think, the less I forget”, Pomme sings.
We see Eden throughout high school, as she carries alone a burden that proves too heavy and too poisonous; we see her as she loses control of her life, trying to become someone who can never again be taken advantage of. She changes drastically from the person she used to be as she denies her feelings and as she slowly, but surely, pushes everyone away.
It’s so very painful seeing her falling lower and lower, but I followed her story with a morbid fascination.
Eden makes it really hard for you to like her, but the ending – rather bitter-sweet – is hopeful. And the book as a whole? Deserving of a five star rating, in my opinion.
Still don’t know what to read next? Give this review a try!