Homeward Bound by Richard Smith – an impressive book of music, family and love
The Paul Simon song Homeward Bound is a well known song of yearning, memory and the impulse to return to the past from the present. Like the song, this novel is an intelligent and loving evocation of the dilemmas of life at many stages, especially where memory and the joy of music come together. George is an irresistible combination of an older man who refuses to accept any limitations and a person driven by music. Tara is a thoughtful teenager who has a lot of sympathy with her grandfather, and is wondering how best to cope with his situation while keen to start her own life in London. Music is what brings them together, but also separates them by the changing nature of popular music. There are also others, including Bridget, George’s daughter and Tara’s mother, her father Toby, and her boyfriend Mark. Everyone sees George from a different position, while he just wants a second chance to be involved in the music he plays on his extensive record collection. The various ways that music is published, played and collected is an important theme of this book. This is a really impressive contemporary read, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.
The book opens with George being given a tour of “Lastdays Rest Home” and him finding it more and more dispiriting. Tatty, repressive and generally off putting, when he tries to escape his son in law Toby is exasperated. Since Evelyn, George’s much loved wife died, seventy nine year old George has been living with his daughter Bridget’s family, and it is not a happy situation. He wants to return to his London house, with his fragile dog Hunter and his precious record collection and piano. Tara meanwhile wants to go to a university in London, and is aware that she will not be allowed to share accommodation with her boyfriend Mark. A compromise is that they will share the house, with rules imposed by Toby. George is keen to share some of his music with Tara, but her boyfriend Mark produces more experimental music on a computer and she struggles to reconcile the two with her own ambition to sing. George revels in his record collection once more, but misses his wife and desperately wants to have one more chance to record his own music that he is still inspired to compose. When a shifty distant relative emerges, and Toby becomes more difficult, Tara struggles to move forward as she struggles to reconcile her family responsibilities with her life, and everyone feels challenged.
This is a lively and well paced book which is honest about the challenges of life for people of many ages. The love of music is central, but there is a very familiar, to me at least, argument over what constitutes the way music is enjoyed. The vinyl collection of music is a solid and tangible link to the past, but is also beginning to become popular with collectors now. This is a powerful book about the difficulties of life for older people and the struggle for independence. It also has much to say about contemporary music, and the surviving demand for a tune and recognisable lyrics. I enjoyed this book for its writing, its themes and much more. I recommend this book as an excellent read concerning family, music and memory, and it should have a wide appeal.
This is a really good read about music, and that seems to be a theme of several novels. It does represent the difference between different age groups, and can evoke memories for anyone. Can you think of any other books that music can be used in this way?