Some novels put the quirky charm front and center and try to win the reader over too quickly, but Gill Hornby’s All Together Now plays it cool in that stiff-upper-lip, British, deadpan way. The author wins over the jaded reader with irony, wit, humor, and a bit of pathos before getting the feel-good vibes really going.
The suburban, commuter village of Bridgeford is losing its small-town charm and identity to chains, superstores, and outside developers. At the same time, the members of this novel’s ensemble cast find themselves individually in flux – whether by their children growing into independent adults; their unhappy spouses asking for divorces; or their employers making them redundant. As a reader, I rooted for caustic Tracey, steady Lewis, do-gooder Annie, and bemused Bennett, while also seeing their annoying sides and sometimes wanting to shake them – because that’s what you do when you fall in love with a story and its characters!
The title comes from the Bridgeford community choral group that Lewis and Annie are in, which needs an influx of new voices and enthusiastic support to keep it from dying the death from attrition that seems imminent. Enthusiasm is in extremely short supply, but most of the characters are overflowing with guilt and self-reproach, so that works almost as well to keep them coming to rehearsals.
The author (wife of novelist Robert Harris and sister of novelist Nick Hornby) focuses on the personalities and drama within the community chorus/choir, much as she did with a group of school mothers in her first novel, The Hive. The St. Ambrose School and a couple of characters from The Hive make cameo appearances here, but this isn’t a sequel or even really a companion novel.
If you like novels by Anne Tyler, Ann Leary, Rachel Joyce, JoJo Moyes, and other wry observers of human nature you will enjoy spending time with the good (and not-so-good) people of Bridgeford.
All Together Now
July 21, 2015
$26.00 US/$29.00 CAN
Disclosure: I received a free advance reader’s copy for review from Library Journal, where I also gave it a rave review.
Tales from the Reading Room