The Funny Business of Life by Jenny Worstall

I think I've read and enjoyed everything that Jenny Worstall has published including several short stories and her novel Make a Joyful Noise. Consequently, I was very pleased to be alerted by A Raucous Time author Julia Hughes that a new Jenny Worstall novel was imminent. I was also delighted when Jenny Worstall agreed to answer 5 Questions for my blog in the days immediately after publication of her new book The Funny Business of Life.

I know that Jenny Worstall is / was a music teacher and this shines through in The Funny Business of Life. From the name of the school at the centre of the book - St. Cecilia's -  to the names of some of the characters, the descriptions of instrumental lessons and concerts and the idiosyncrasies of the teachers, music in one way or another appears on just about every page. "All musicians love Bach, don't they?" says one of the characters and I imagine that all music teachers will love this book.

It's a lovely, charming, easy-to-read novel that draws the reader into several interconnected plot elements most of which have a romantic aspect. At the heart of the novel is Miriam's Story and about three quarters of the way through you have a fairly clear idea of where it's going but you can't quite fathom out how the author is going to get there!

As the story evolves Miriam and all the other characters are skilfully and subtly developed to become real and engaging. Some of the characters have appeared before in Jenny Worstall's previous writing notably Miriam in her early adult life and the little girl who loves music.

The author handles the deeper, more poignant aspects of the novel really well exploring illness, death and tragedy with sensitivity but without sentimentality. I don't want to reveal the plot but I felt really moved by Brunhilda and Harry.

The author makes a clever use of a choral speaking device where, for example, a group of unidentified students comment on the action and move the story forward. It is this sort of deft, light touch that makes the writing so interesting.

I really enjoyed the references to wonderful music that occur throughout the novel. After reading Make a Joyful Noise I listened to Belshazzar's Feast by William Walton several times. The Funny Business of Life has reminded me how much I like The Messiah and put me onto something new: Sea Interludes by Benjamin Britten.

I thought The Funny Business of Life was really enjoyable. It's unusual and original and well worth reading.

You can try a sample and download the book at the Amazon Kindle Store or do what I did, and borrow it on a Kindle Unlimited subscription.