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The Song Is You: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Arthur Phillips
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $5.01 (33%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

BONUS: This edition contains a The Song Is You discussion guide and excerpts from Arthur Phillips's The Tragedy of Arthur, Prague, The Egyptologist, and Angelica.

Each song on Julian’s iPod, “that greatest of all human inventions,” is a touchstone. There are songs for the girls from when he was single, there’s the one for the day he met his wife-to-be, there’s one for the day his son was born. But when Julian’s family falls apart, even music loses its hold on him.

    Until one snowy night in Brooklyn, when his life’s soundtrack—and life itself—start to play again. Julian stumbles into a bar and sees Cait O’Dwyer, a flame-haired Irish rock singer, performing with her band, and a strange and unlikely love affair is ignited. Over the next few months, Julian and Cait’s passion plays out, though they never meet. What follows is a heartbreaking dark comedy, the tenderest of love stories, and a perfectly observed tale of the way we live now.

Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best of the Month, April 2009: A man who's not quite young anymore, his relationship trouble, and his iPod: at first glance Arthur Phillips's The Song Is You sounds like strictly Nick Hornby territory, but it turns out to be a lot closer to The Red Shoes, a story of love and art in which the two are confused and jealously compete. And as in The Red Shoes, but so rarely in other works of art, it's the art-making that carries the most power and mystery. Julian Donahue is a "creative": a skilled director of commercials who has come to know his limits. Cait O'Dwyer is a singer, and a bit of a comet that Julian somehow catches the tail of. Their courtship--as Julian evades a marriage split by an unbearable loss and Cait shoots single-mindedly toward stardom--is an intricately constructed pas de deux that is both surprising and convincing throughout. It's Phillips's first novel set in the present since Prague, and in its artful structure, style, and heart it's a match for that smart and charming debut. --Tom Nissley

From The New Yorker

Phillips’s best writing achieves an elaborate, gratifying precision, combining a naturally flamboyant style with neat, observational wit. This quality is sharpest in some of the character portraits and delectable set pieces that animate this novel, his fourth, but the central plot is sometimes strained. A middle-aged advertising director, whose marriage has broken up following the death of his two-year-old son, plays an invisible and unlikely muse to a young Irish singer on the brink of stardom. As the two engage in an indirect seduction—they never meet—the narrative veers close to the “adolescent fantasy” that its protagonist fears. But this curious bond provides an armature for Phillips’s beautiful evocation of music’s consoling power to blur the borders between art, artist, and consumer.
Copyright ©2008 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker

Product Details

  • File Size: 1341 KB
  • Print Length: 290 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B002YXYKSO
  • Publisher: Random House (April 7, 2009)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0024NP5BA
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,969 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's the novel you'll treat like a favorite album... April 20, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Arthur Phillips gave an interview to Amazon for this book and that interview found its way to my Kindle via the Amazon Storefront. In it, Phillips discusses his passion for the iPod and his feelings about music - how each song revives a memory, a moment, a relationship; how a record can make you feel as insecure as the rainy day after 9th grade when you heard it, or a song can make you shake in longing for the person who shares the memory of that song with you. Phillips was right, and as soon as he said this book took that approach and crafted a story about/around/inspired by it, I knew I had to read it.

Phillips gives his readers an honest, voyeuristic, captivating journey through the past, present, and future of Julian and the ones important to him. Phillips uses songs to shift through time and space fluidly from memory to memory, telling stories not in a chronological order but as randomly as the songs on his iPod appear that trigger the memories.

Julian finds a new musician, Cait, and follows her career from a lowly dive bar to an international tour. Along the way, he begins finding his attraction to her spread deeper and more thoughtfully, as he connects her lyrics to the moments in his life past and present. Cait's music and persona help him cope with his past regrets, deal with his present aimlessness, and his longing for...he doesn't quite know what, maybe just his longing to be longing over something.

Julian writes/draws out some feedback for Cait at a show and it gets around to her; from then on til the end, the relationship becomes something torn between friendship, romance, mentorship, mutual therapists, and philosophers.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cait O'Dwyer Fan April 30, 2009
I am not sure what attracted me to this book at first, but one reviewer mentioned it was about a guy with his ipod. That is an extremely simple and ignorant way of looking at this novel.

I will not go into recapping the story except to say middle aged Julian has had a very emotional roller coaster of a life when he stumbles in a little club and hears the Irish swan song calls of Cait O'Dwyer, a young and rising musician on the scene.

What ensues is a journey through and with Julian's life and his search to find something "real" to hold onto, hence, his Greatful Dead-like following of Ms. O'Dwyer.

Love of music from Julian's father, especially jazz, truly links the two generations together and like father, like son, music seems to be the only constant true love.

Arthur Phillip's writing might be some of the best this reader has ever read. I found myself re-reading paragraphs due to my astonishment of his use of language and words. He is a remarkable writer and because of the writing I will be looking into his previous book Prague.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful but Predictable - Just Okay May 12, 2009
By Brenda
I have mixed feelings about The Song Is You. I just finished and I don't really feel wowed nor satisfied. The story line is in one aspect frustrating, but in another very creepy - the stalking gets a little uncomfortable, though I think what Phillips is trying to achieve is for the reader to be undecided as to whether or not it's uncomfortable. For me, it was just creepy, so I couldn't really get on board with it. My main complaint, however, is that the whole book is given away in the prologue. Therefore, this story which should be suspenseful, isn't in the least.

However, though I'm not crazy about the story, I really love some of the prose and descriptions, though in some places it's too much. (A 250 page books feels like 500 sometimes, not really in a good way.) The 3rd omniscient works well here, and I enjoy the characters, who are all well-developed. My favorite passage is one description of Cait, from page 30:

"He especially loved how she handled the songs originally sung by men, how she sang the lyric straight (singer wants a girl) and then gleefully, evilly put it over as a blood-red lipstick-lesbian tune, or reversed the pronouns (singer wants a boy) and then she cold vary it, do it as a neurotic girl or raging girl or seductive girl or funny girl. The best, though, was when she kept a man's lyric the same but then somehow turned its meaning around, kept it in his words but put the whole thing in quotation marks, as if she were singing what a man had once sung to her and now she was only recalling it."

Overall, if you love music you may be interested in this, but be warned it's not really a love story. The end drops off too abruptly, and we never find out what happens to half the characters. I needed about 50 more pages at the end and 50 less at the beginning.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pitch freakin' perfect May 12, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I absolutely loved this novel. I rarely write reviews here, but I wanted to for this book in the hope that if you're on the fence about buying this book, this review may be the slight nudge you need to buy it, read it, and love it like I did. And if you love music (of any kind), you would simply be remiss if you don't read this book.

The book begins with the premise that art - especially, music - can inspire nostalgia about people, events, places of the past. But, more specifically, music has the unique power to recall what exactly you were feeling while experiencing those events, people, places. Slowly, the book evolves into a comment on the muse / artist relationship. But as this idea is explored, the reader soon discovers the idea is that the novel is not just about the inspiration behind art - specifically, music - but also how art can assuage pain and hurt of even the saddest, most awful memories. The muse and artist relationship is symbiotic, complementary - but extraordinarily complicated.

What's truly great about this novel, though, is Phillips' writing. From the very first page, you trust him. He's funny, he's passionate, he's affecting. And he renders his characters and their relationships to each other in such real, faithful terms. Even at the times where the plot of the novel and the examination of the characters' thoughts - especially Julian's - begin to strain believability, he gently guides you back to a place where you have no trouble accepting that these are real, extraordinarily sane characters.

If I have one complaint about the novel at all, it's that the writing is a bit dense at the beginning.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars A Little Bit Intellectually Bogged Down
Kathy's Review:

Another TBR Pile Challenge book. This one has been on my TBR pile since 2010, when it received literary acclaim. Read more
Published 19 days ago by Literary R&R
1.0 out of 5 stars Not a fan of the ending
This book was so terrible. But that's the problem: it wasn't. Or it wasn't supposed to be.

I genuinely enjoyed the first like, 3/4 of the book. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Allison Burke
5.0 out of 5 stars wow
This book was recommended to me at Skylight books in LA (awesome bookstore - check it out) and for whatever reason I left it on my shelf for over a year before opening it. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Daniel D
5.0 out of 5 stars So memorable
I read it two years ago and it still makes my heart cry a little when I remember it. I wrote down some of the sentences to look at now and then because they were so true.
Published 9 months ago by Barbara Sims
4.0 out of 5 stars A song is not a person
In this rather opaque novel, Julian Donahue, a divorced, forty-something producer of television commercials, is representative of many of the post-1980s generation in their... Read more
Published 12 months ago by J. Grattan
1.0 out of 5 stars This book was not for me
Could not get into this story. Started over twice and never finished the book. I went to my book club and found I was not the only one who did not enjoy this book.
Published 17 months ago by Decla
3.0 out of 5 stars Book Club material
This is a book that needs to be read and reread and then discussed. I will agree that it is fairly well-written, but the first seventy-five pages are laborious. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Shy
1.0 out of 5 stars Made myself finish this book.
The last part of the book was better than the first part. The book club that I read the book for was not thrilled with the read. We almost thought that there were two authors! Read more
Published 17 months ago by Janet Lefton
4.0 out of 5 stars Soundtrack Your Life
- Music lovers will adore the idea of a constant soundtrack, music representing major moments in your life, and being drawn to someone based on a musical... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Book Dork
3.0 out of 5 stars Well Written, But Unsatisifying
Arthur Phillips The Song Is You has a very interesting concept. Julian Donahue is a television commercial director in his mid 40's who lives in Brooklyn. Read more
Published on July 24, 2012 by P Magnum
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More About the Author

Arthur Phillips was born in Minneapolis and educated at Harvard. He has been a child actor, a jazz musician, a speechwriter, a dismally failed entrepreneur, and a five-time Jeopardy! champion.

His first novel, Prague, was named a New York Times Notable Book, and receivedThe Los Angeles Times/Art Seidenbaum Award for best first novel. His second novel, The Egyptologist, was an international bestseller, and was on more than a dozen "Best of 2004" lists. Angelica, his third novel, made The Washington Post best fiction of 2007 and led that paper to call him "One of the best writers in America." The Song Is You was a New York Times Notable Book, on the Post's best of 2009 list, and inspired Kirkus to write, "Phillips still looks like the best American novelist to have emerged in the present decade."

His work has been published in twenty-seven languages, and is the source of three films currently in development.

His fifth book, The Tragedy of Arthur, was named one of the best books of 2011 by
The New York Times
The New Yorker
The Wall Street Journal
The Chicago Tribune
Kirkus Reviews
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune
The San Francisco Chronicle
The Philadelphia Inquirer
The American Library Association
Library Journal
Paste Magazine
The Toronto Globe & Mail (Canada)
The Toronto Star (Canada)
The New Statesman (U.K.)
Critical Mob
Hudson Booksellers
Barnes and Noble

He lives in New York with his wife and two sons.

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