In Beyond The Music, Ellen Daniels is stuck in Canada, far from her high school friends and her boyfriend, Ned, in Indiana. Not only is she far from home but she is living in an industrial area with no friends, no money , and only her parents for company. Ellen dreams of going back to Indiana, of marrying Ned, and of a home, children, and a “normal” life.
Then two major events happen: Ned breaks up with her and Jack, with his intense blue eyes, enters her life. Smitten with Jack, Ellen has a choice to make. Should she cast her lot with the mysterious Jack or try to recapture her dream of normality?
Theme of the Book
This is a romance that teaches a lesson. Sometimes the things we dream of, that we are sure we want, are not really the things that will make us happy.
What I Liked About the Story
In Beyond The Music, Ellen’s story takes place in 1966, the heyday of the counterculture in both the US and Canada. Ellen is surrounded by hippies and by draft resistors protesting the war in Viet Nam. She is also living with some of the best of 20th century popular music. Ms. Brown takes full advantage of the setting and has filled her novel with references to classic rock music from the Beatles to the Rolling Stones, Elvis, and Bob Dylan, and to the enthusiasm with which the groups were followed by their adoring fans. This is a perfect way to evoke the atmosphere of the 1960s. Ms. Brown also paints a picture of “normal” life: of those young people who are uninterested in politics or revolution and who are still dreaming the dreams of the 1950s, albeit with color television and dishwashers. These are the young people who got lost in the media coverage of hippy culture and anti-war protests.
Ellen is definitely a dreamer. Not only does she dream of a perfect future with Ned, but also has room in her lively imagination for convoluted theories about Jack. Is he an escaped convict? Did he murder his uncle? Ellen isn’t very good at the practicalities of life. She isn’t able to make friends but does manage to flirt. She can’t manage to pay for college, but never looks for a job. In one scene, Ellen eats some brownies laced with hashish and only seems more like herself. Her fears for the future are heightened but are always there.
Jack is the mystery man: attractive, attentive, yet secretive. The reader will figure out Jack’s real identity without trouble, but Ellen seems oblivious.
The secondary characters in Beyond The Music are quite believable. Ellen’s father isn’t much of a businessman and her mother is long-suffering but faithful. They obviously love and worry about Ellen though they can’t give her the financial support she needs. Her girlfriends are very typical of the time and the reader can watch them change as they move from high school to university. Ned is a real bore and obviously won’t be able to hold a candle to Jack.
What I Didn’t Like About the Story
I enjoyed Beyond The Music but would have like it more had the author bothered to check the final product for language mistakes. There are shifts in verb tense from past to present in the same paragraph and seemingly without reason. The misuse of commas and semicolons is rife throughout the story. There are places where words are left out, or added, or repeated as if the author couldn’t quite decide which word she wanted. To me, this throws a shadow over the whole book. An author who expects readers to pay for a book should at least have the manuscript checked. This lackadaisical approach to writing damages the reputation of all independent authors.
Beyond The Music is a fairly typical romance but set in a very interesting time. The story is entertaining and once the manuscript has been through the hands of a competent proof-reader, it should please fans of romance.