The Song is You
Arthur Phillips

Random House
Hardcover/340 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4000-6646-9
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"A novel contrived around modern technology. . ."

A novel contrived around modern technology—iPods, chat rooms, instant celebrity tracking systems—is intriguing. However, Arthur Phillips’ characters in The Song is You are unrealistic and the dialogue falls flat, unable to carry the story line to its intended suspenseful conclusion.

The main character Julian is a self-proclaimed director who produces shampoo advertisements. He is on the verge of a divorce, mourning the death of his child, when he becomes obsessed with the young, red-haired Irish singer Cait O’Dwyer. He is constantly “punching” his iPod in search of her music.

The two characters never meet personally. Rather they develop an odd virtual intimate relationship through chat rooms, video, e-mail, and cell phones. Julian stalks O’Dwyer, sleeps in her bed and even cooks her a meal when she is not home. He creeps around her apartment building photographing her and follows her on her European tour. A band member describes him as “old” and “vaguely oily,” but she considers Julian her “lucky charm” and muse.

Other characters swirling around in various disconnected chapters include Julian’s wife Rachel who wants her husband back, a mystery since neither of them was faithful during their unhappy marriage. His brother Adrian is a genius who believes his life was ruined when a question on the game show Jeopardy! unfairly implicated him as a racist.

Surrounding Cait is her lead guitarist Ian who, in spite of his own personal relationships, wants to control Cait’s life. A fat has-been musician pops up literally and confronts Julian, while hiding in the bushes outside Cait’s hotel.

Most rewarding is the back story about Julian’s father. He loved Billie Holliday’s singing and taught Julian the passion and strength of music.

Phillips, a five-time Jeopardy! champion and jazz musician, has an intellectual grip on language. If you are lusting for music and new age technology trivia, this is your book. However, the endless details and similes, along with colorless characters, throw roadblocks into the already dull pace of the story.

Reviewer: Kate Padilla