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The Thrill of it All

Joseph O’Connor

Average Review Rating Average Rating 7/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Vintage

Published : 2015

Copyright : Joseph O’Connor 2014

ISBN-10 : PB 0-09-948153-7
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-09-948153-9

Publisher's Write-Up

At college in 1980s Luton, Robbie Goulding, an Irish-born teenager, meets the elusive Fran Mulvey, an orphaned Vietnamese refugee. Together they form a band. Joined by cellist Sarah-Thérèse Sherlock and her twin brother Seán on drums, The Ships in the Night set out to chase fame. But the story of this makeshift family is haunted by ghosts from the past.

Spanning 25 years, The Thrill of it All rewinds and fast-forwards through an evocative soundtrack of struggle and laughter. Infused with blues, ska, classic showtunes, New Wave and punk, using interviews, lyrics, memoirs and diaries, the tale stretches from suburban England to Manhattan’s East Village, from Thatcher-era London to the Hollywood Bowl, from the meadows of the Glastonbury Festival to a wintry Long Island, culminating in a Dublin evening in July 2012, a night that changes everything.

A story of loyalties, friendship, the call of the muse, and the beguiling shimmer of teenage dreams, this is a warm-hearted, funny and deeply moving novel for anyone that’s ever loved a song.

'A novel about music, family and friendship...O'Connor brilliantly evokes the 1980s... This novel is shot through with humour, patois and all the human contradictions that make the characters truly memorable.'

Mail on Sunday

'O’Connor is warm without being sentimental, and he cuts effortlessly between comedy and tragedy. Music nerds will love the most satisfyingly voluminous playlists since High Fidelity.'


'Occasionally, you read a sentence that you know couldn't be bettered: Joseph O'Connor's new novel is jam-packed with such sentences – paragraph after paragraph of brilliance.'

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Ben Macnair (290216) Rating (7/10)

Review by Ben Macnair
Rating 7/10
It is an age old story. Boy meets boy, they form a band, conquer the world, become rich and successful, one marries the other’s girlfriend, before a bittersweet reunion gig.

1980’s Luton is not the most exotic of places, but it was where Robbie Goulding met the much more mysterious and charismatic Fran Mulvey, and together with cellist Sarah, and her drummer brother Sean, the Ships in the Night are formed. Over the course of twenty five years, the novel follows the quartet’s mixed fortunes, both personally, and artistically.

Anyone who has been in a band, regardless of stature and success, will find something to identify with here, whether it arguments about money and artistic differences, letting each other have lives outside of the band, or the changes wrought by influences outside of the narrow confines of the band. O’Connor has bought the writing style, and love for characters that was rife within such works as The Star of the Sea and Redemption Falls to this story, that is about family, friends, love, and love for music and art in all of its forms.

The narrator is Robbie Goulding, and the book is his autobiography, so we look at his successes, and failures, the days spent on Top of the Pops, nestling in the charts with Wham, before a non-appearance from Sarah puts the skids on their upward trajectory, before a move to America changes their fortunes again. Like the Police, all members had very successful careers after the band folds, but the front-man, gets the spoils, and although Robbie has his struggles with alcohol and drugs, he becomes clean and sober enough to write an autobiography that is packed full of vivid description, pathos, betrayal, redemption, and the healing power of friendship, electric guitars, and an audience.
Ben Macnair (29th February 2016)

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