What’s it all about?:
The Spanish House is known to locals as an architectural folly, and it is now nearly derelict to boot. When its reclusive owner dies intestate the Spanish House is left to his city-dwelling niece. For the recently-widowed Isabel, the house is a potential lifeline. For her neighbour Matt McCarthy, the house is revenge.
What did I think?:
A while ago I set myself the challenge to read all of Jojo Moyes back catalogue after reading such gems such as Me Before You and The Girl You Left Behind. Night Music is the next on my list and was first published in 2008. Unlike a lot of Moyes’ work, it does not have both a contemporary and a historical section but has a multitude of characters to get to grips with and, as always, I found the characterisation to be near perfect. As the novel opens, we are introduced to Laura and Matt McCarthy who have looked after their elderly, very obnoxious and ungrateful neighbour for a while now, not out of the kindness of their hearts but in the hope that when he dies, he will leave them his house – “The Spanish House,” in his will. Instead of this happening however to their disgust and bitter disappointment when he passes away the house is bequeathed to his grand-niece Isabel Delancey who is living in London with her two children.
The house couldn’t have come at a better time for Isabel. Recently widowed after her husband died in a horrific car accident, Isabel has really been struggling. She lives, breathes and speaks music and is an accomplished professional violin player which sees her travelling round the world. Her husband had always dealt with the financial side of things and the children were looked after by a nanny so when he dies her world all but implodes. Her daughter Kitty has had to grow up very quickly frantically trying to manage the bills that her mother cannot cope with and her poor younger brother Thierry has not spoken a word since his father’s death. She finally makes her mother pull her head from the sand and face facts in that they cannot afford the lifestyle that Isabel has become accustomed to. Luckily, at this point, the family are thrown a lifeline in The Spanish House and they immediately up sticks and move to the country and try and settle into the difference that living in a small village community offers.
There is no way that things are going to be easy for them though. First of all, the house is a complete mess, almost as if it is falling apart from the inside outwards and as I’m sure you can imagine, Isabel is no Miss DIY! Step forward Matt McCarthy, her knight in shining armour/builder extraordinaire. Or is he? Yes, this is the same Matt who desperately wants The Spanish House for himself and although he is instantly attracted to Isabel he is determined to sabotage the house (literally, with shoddy worksmanship) while charging her extortionate amounts for the privilege. And of course Isabel is so incredibly gullible and naive with things like this so she doesn’t see what’s happening right under her nose. As Matt attempts to drive Isabel and her family away from The Spanish House things begin to unravel very quickly and soon result in a dangerous obsession. Step forward Isabel’s (actual?) knight in shining armour, Byron Firth who works for Matt but knows exactly what kind of man he is and attempts to help Isabel through the mess she finds herself in. On a side note, many thanks to the author for giving me a fit of giggles when Byron Firth emerges all wet and dripping from a lake – wonder where her inspiration for that scene lay?!
I have to be honest and say this isn’t my favourite from Jojo Moyes work but it’s definitely worth the read. Other reviewers have mentioned that they didn’t really see the point in the Laura/Matt “story on the side,” but for me, I found it a nice addition. Matt is an awful character and has cheated on his wife multiple times yet she continues to stay with him. I found myself almost pulling my hair out in frustration with her merely accepting his behaviour and thought their toxic marriage brought a sinister edge to the novel, something I’ve never seen before in a Jojo Moyes book. Isabel frustrated me too but in different ways and I ended up feeling differently towards the end of the novel. At the beginning, she appears to put her music before her family, sticks her head in the sand when faced with problems and is so incredibly gullible and naive it made me want to scream! Losing her husband and having to confront her problems made her grow up immensely and let her prove a better mother to her children as a result. If there was one character I didn’t really connect with it was Byron Firth (despite the wet shirt scene) who didn’t seem as “fleshed out,” as her other characters and I felt he had real potential to be more interesting. Apart from this, Night Music is a great read. I think Moyes’ fans will lap it up and it will hopefully bring a lot more new readers to her fan base.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT JOJO MOYES BOOK: The Horse Whisperer, coming soon!