The year is 1969, and the Bayleen Island Folk Fest is abuzz with one name: Jesse Reid. Tall and soft-spoken, with eyes blue as stone-washed denim, Jesse Reid’s intricate guitar riffs and supple baritone are poised to tip from fame to legend with this one headlining performance. That is, until his motorcycle crashes on the way to the show.
Jane Quinn is a Bayleen Island local whose music flows as naturally as her long blond hair. When she and her bandmates are asked to play in Jesse Reid’s place at the festival, it almost doesn’t seem real. But Jane plants her bare feet on the Main Stage and delivers the performance of a lifetime, stopping Jesse’s disappointed fans in their tracks: A star is born.
Jesse stays on the island to recover from his near-fatal accident and he strikes up a friendship with Jane, coaching her through the production of her first record. As Jane contends with the music industry’s sexism, Jesse becomes her advocate, and what starts as a shared calling soon becomes a passionate love affair. On tour with Jesse, Jane is so captivated by the giant stadiums, the late nights, the wild parties, and the media attention, that she is blind-sided when she stumbles on the dark secret beneath Jesse’s music. With nowhere to turn, Jane must reckon with the shadows of her own past; what follows is the birth of one of most iconic albums of all time.
Shot through with the lyrics, the icons, the lore, the adrenaline of the early 70s music scene, Songs in Ursa Major pulses with romantic longing and asks the question so many female artists must face: What are we willing to sacrifice for our dreams?
***Thanks to NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided.
enjoyable/easy to read:
Brodie has a gift for writing characters. Jesse and Jane are incredibly realistic, as are all of the supporting cast. I never questioned their motives or actions, and it made it easy to relax into the story and enjoy the ride. That’s not to say that I agree with all of their actions – Jesse and Jane both have very headstrong, artistic personalities, which don’t always lead to the best decision making. However, this contributed to the story’s authenticity – there’s nothing worse than reading about perfect characters who never make mistakes.
I do wish that the tough subjects were addressed more directly. For example, mental illness, drug addiction, and sexism in the music industry are all mentioned, but they felt supplemental to the love story, not the main focus. Even when they directly contributed to problems in Jesse and Jane’s relationship or their career, it still felt like there was a reluctance to discuss them in detail. I would have loved a deep dive into any or all of these topics rather than the feather-light touch used here.