Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Review: The iPod Generation


Arthur Phillips uses music to tell a love story in his latest novel, The Song Is You. His main character is Julian Donahue, a middle-aged commercial director obsessed with his iPod and constantly analyzing his life through songs of his past. The song of first love, first kiss, first heartbreak–Julian’s iPod is an album of memories that have left him imprisoned to the past.

Julian has a long history with music, taking after his father who can be heard requesting a song on a live recording of a Billie Holiday concert. But fast forward many years later, and Julian has separated from his wife after the sudden death of their two-year-old song. He’s in a rut of pain and heartbreak, but everything changes the night Julian stumbles in a bar and hears the music of Cait O’Dwyer, an Irish [much younger] rock singer with flaming red hair and a personality to match. Voilà, a unique love story is born.

Phillips has crafted characters full of personality and quirks. Julian’s older brother, Aidan, is a socially inept genius whose downfall came from a politically incorrect answer on Jeopardy; his wife, Rachel, is desperate to end their separation and speaks to Julian through subtle hints and clues that are often misinterpreted; Julian has trouble shifting from playboy to devoted husband, as his obsessions tend to win over self control. Metaphors are prevalent, both in the language and plot of the story, a feature of Phillips’ writing that can at times have you begging for a concise description. Julian and Cait’s relationship becomes a game shrouded in mystery and anticipation that keeps you interested in how it plays out. I got so caught up in the characters’ next moves, that I had to stop and realize how obsessive and stalker-esque this plot had become. Phillips has a bigger picture in mind, though; this obsession as a form of escapism ultimately leads the characters through their problems and out of the past, and he successfully created a piece of work that perfectly illustrates the relationship between society and technology.

Random House
272 Pages, Hardcover
Many thanks to Random House and LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program for providing me a free advance copy of this book.

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