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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