Until She Sings is MBBlissett’s story of the ordinary; the push and pull of personal relationships. However, what Blissett does best, and with unerring confidence, is to tell it in extraordinary detail.
From the moment we meet Caitlin Ross we know we are in the company of a sensitive soul, and it is with a concrete understanding of how that same sensitivity can be as much an open wound as it is a healing that the author walks us through the transformation of Caitlin.
The young woman we encounter at the start of the book is at a point in her life with her boyfriend, Luke, where she is developing and progressing along a path that originally was the glue of their relationship: Music. But where Luke, the flamboyant front-man of a band on the cusp of fame, is fearful of the next step; choosing to remain confidently just full of potential, Caitlin is taking the brave step of solo-performing her own songs during an open mic night. The lack of support she gets from Luke during the gig is further emphasised by the attention Caitlin receives immediately afterwards from Daniel. A man whose insightful recognition of her musical influences – her parents both were musicians – told Caitlin that he was truly seeing her. Not simply looking. It is Daniel’s continued focus on her person, whilst always deferring to her mind, that provides a tantalising taste of surely what everybody wants from a relationship; presence.
The subject of music lends itself very adeptly to the author’s writing style, as the detail with which he delivers Caitlin’s story is very much one of a musical structure. Blissett’s strength lies in his attention to detail within a scene. The clothing, the food, the characters’ idiosyncrasies all arrive in our minds as individual notes. However, this detailed description of a scene is far more than page-filling verbosity. Encouraging us to note the minutiae allows that moment to transcend from a collection of individual notes into a chord. And as the story of Caitlin’s intensely painful acceptance of the death of something changes into the hopeful birth of something new, so too the chapters of Until She Sings arrive in our minds with a resonance, for anybody that has lived, loved and lost can surely do nothing but empathise.
As the story continues the balance shifts further as friends in Luke’s periphery continue to insinuate themselves further into the already struggling relationship. Conversely it is a friend of Caitlin’s; April, that provides a counterpoint to that unwelcome intrusion, in the form of a sexual awakening. This is the point at which Blissett’s details shine. When he talks of the inanimate it can be with an often forensic focus, but when he treats his readers to sex he does it with such verve whilst not being salacious. He doesn’t skimp on the physical in any way, but it is the masterful manner with which he shows us how these encounters feel rather than simply how they look.
I do not intentionally pursue love stories, and Until She Sings was purchased primarily as a way to support an author I have watched, often from too great a distance, but continually watched nonetheless, and I can say I had often dismissed books of this category, but did so from a naive and ignorant belief that I knew enough of the genre to know it wasn’t what I wanted. This book was an eye-opener for me: not only as a shocking reminder of the old adage about book covers and the judging thereof, but also of just how accomplished Matt has become. So take a day or two and immerse yourself in Caitlin’s story.
Until She Sings is an ordinary story told in an extraordinary way.