I love music books
Title: Songs in Ursa Major
Author: Emma Brodie
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: June 22nd, 2021
The year is 1969, and the Bayleen Island Folk Fest is abuzz with one name: Jesse Reid. Tall and soft-spoken, with eyes blue as stone-washed denim, Jesse Reid’s intricate guitar riffs and supple baritone are poised to tip from fame to legend with this one headlining performance. That is, until his motorcycle crashes on the way to the show.
Jane Quinn is a Bayleen Island local whose music flows as naturally as her long blond hair. When she and her bandmates are asked to play in Jesse Reid’s place at the festival, it almost doesn’t seem real. But Jane plants her bare feet on the Main Stage and delivers the performance of a lifetime, stopping Jesse’s disappointed fans in their tracks: A star is born.
Jesse stays on the island to recover from his near-fatal accident and he strikes up a friendship with Jane, coaching her through the production of her first record. As Jane contends with the music industry’s sexism, Jesse becomes her advocate, and what starts as a shared calling soon becomes a passionate love affair. On tour with Jesse, Jane is so captivated by the giant stadiums, the late nights, the wild parties, and the media attention, that she is blind-sided when she stumbles on the dark secret beneath Jesse’s music. With nowhere to turn, Jane must reckon with the shadows of her own past; what follows is the birth of one of most iconic albums of all time.
Shot through with the lyrics, the icons, the lore, the adrenaline of the early 70s music scene, Songs in Ursa Major pulses with romantic longing and asks the question so many female artists must face: What are we willing to sacrifice for our dreams?
Of course I loved this. Total Daisy Jones and the Six vibes, with a little Almost Famous thrown in, too. This story is very loosely based on the love affair between James Taylor and Joni Mitchell in the late 60’s/early 70’s, but that is definitely not the whole story. While also depicting the hardships of sexism in the music industry at that time, at the core, this is a story of the women of the Quinn family of Bayleen Island.
It’s crazy to think this was a debut novel. The way Emma Brodie has masterfully told the story of Jane Quinn—her relationship with her family, her relationship with music, and the intoxicating relationship with fellow musician, Jesse Reid—was really inspiring. This book was extremely atmospheric—I really felt like I was on the island, on tour, or with Jane in Greece. Reading the instances of blatant sexism Jane faced during the processes of recording, touring, and marketing her music was unbelievable, and even more unbelievable is that it’s struggles that women still face in the music industry today. Jane shows the resilience to make her music, her way.
While it’s going to be compared to Daisy Jones and the Six—I did just that earlier in this review—it is it’s own story, not a copycat. I can’t wait to read more from this new author.
ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.