Published by Salt Publishing, Autumn 2015.
Shortlisted for the East Midlands Book Award 2016. Longlisted for the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize 2016. Longlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize. Named as one of the Top 10 Books of 2016 by Pamreader and Our Book Reviews Online.
“A rare book: erudite, odd and utterly engaging” (Jo Baker).
At roughly 2pm on 9th June 1999, on a small street in Hanford, Stoke-on-Trent, a young girl dies of leukaemia; at almost the same moment, all her neighbours on the street experience the same musical hallucination. The novel is about this death and accompanying phenomenon – and about their after-effects, as the girl’s family gradually disintegrates in the wake of a terrible trauma.
You can see more details about Melissa on Salt Publishing’s website here.
And you can also order Melissa here.
Some reviews of Melissa:
“Melissa is an intricate kaleidoscope of a novel that explores the inevitable decay of bodies, of houses, of minds and of families. And the unexpected beauty of what comes after” (Jenn Ashworth).
“Melissa is such a successfully ambitious book that riffs and ranges through medicine, mathematics and music. It’s a flight of darkly comic fancy that takes off from the solidity of a Midlands housing estate and fires its satiric barbs at every form of society’s cant. It’s reminiscent of a Burslem Beckett” (Desmond Barry).
“Reading Melissa feels like listening to an emotive piece of music as Taylor conducts an orchestra of grief where truth resonates on many levels. It’s an extraordinary experience to read this novel, both hilarious yet moving, devastating yet illuminating … I loved this novel” (Pam McIlroy, Pamreader). Also named as one of Pamreader’s Top 10 Books of the Year, 2016.
“This exquisitely crafted and haunting novel spirals around the death of a young girl, drawing the reader inexorably to the core – the centre of grief … The core of the book is deeply moving, but Taylor’s acute ear for dialogue and ironic observation of his characters means the reader is never overcome by darkness. This is a novel full of the light and shade of living” (Maggie Butt).
” … innovatively structured, multi-voiced, covering music, medicine and maths, it’s mesmerising and impressive” (Elizabeth Baines).
“So beautiful that I never doubted its truth for a minute” (Rebecca Sowray).
” … a multi-faceted novel on the impact of decay and loss … Anyone who has experienced loss … will be able to relate to at least some of the characters and events portrayed in this novel …. Melissa is a very beautiful book for many reasons” (Raj K Lal).
“Melissa is a fascinating portrait of family skillfully rendered through Taylor’s mournfully elegant prose. His greatest successes come through his meditations on the utility of music in approaching grief and, hopefully, learning to live with it day by day” (Phillip Garland, Los Angeles Review).
“Jonathan Taylor’s important novel Melissa explores what happens when … stages [of grief] do not succeed one another in a linear fashion …. Adopting an intricate structure inspired by the theme and variation technique … Melissa rejects the standard Hollywood narrative of adversity leading to joy” (Conor Farrington, in The Lancet Psychiatry).
“… heartbreaking … explored the subject with dignity …. I strongly recommend it” (Jodie Neary, Should Probably Have a Title by Now).
“… told with a sense of wry humour … dark … quirky … a quiet, slowly revealing story, one I could read again and again” (Mary Mayfield, Our Book Reviews Online). Also named as one of the Top Ten books of 2016 by Our Book Reviews Online.
“Melissa is a brilliant read, although by no means always an easy one. Emotionally – and it is above all, I think, an emotional book – it is raw, the hurt of the main characters almost bleeding off each page. It is a powerful story, which is nonetheless very funny in places: the Combs’ neighbours provide a degree of relief” (David, Blue Book Balloon).
” … absolutely stunning … There are moments in this book … that I think will remain with me forever … When I finished reading [it] … I had an immense smile on my face and a feeling of absolute satisfaction” (Anne Williams, Being Anne …).
“It was as if I was actually watching a news story unfold gradually …. An interesting read and a brilliant experiment into the way we tell and take in stories” (Alyssia Chapman, Miss Chapman Reads).
“The seedy and coarser aspects of humdrum life … offer rewards … if you look through them … Melissa’s shadow will … cast a spell” (Bruce Edwards, in Kent Life).
“A quite extraordinary novel … There is a depth of intellectual stimulation you do not normally find in fiction … The author has expertly incorporated both principles from physics together with music appreciation in a totally understandable and exciting fashion … I was enthralled with the unique circumstances and characters! Highly recommended” (Glenda A Bixler, Book Reader’s Heaven).
” … a heartbreaking read …. It’s almost impossible not to be touched” (Sunniva Midtskogen, in Cultured Vultures).
” … layers of stories are built up to create an amazing novel exploring the psychology behind the power of music, maths and science …. This is an impressive novel, which successfully captures a wide range of themes and ideas … a must read … deserves lots of readers” (Jessica Patient, Writer’s Little Helper).
” … a story of loss, the collective response to disaster, and the disintegration of a family … Taylor is … a master of dialogue, and that rattles the story along nicely … Melissa is a wonderful book. It’s a hugely engaging novel, but it’s also a fascinating exploration of a number of intellectual avenues” (Chloe Turner, TurnerPen2Paper).
“Melissa was an intriguing, at times heartbreaking, read. It was at times scathing about modern life, brave about the human condition. It’s well worth a read, enjoyable and engaging” (Sue Barsby, Books from Basford and also in LeftLion Magazine).
“Love the writing, so crisp and clever” (Emily Devane).
” … a mix of tones … The genre of the novel is … hard to pin down … flippancy and seriousness frequently rub shoulders … Escaping spiders, webs, homes, space and the spell of music all figure … The impression given is that … perhaps only music can communicate directly” (Tim Love, Litrefs).
“… a unique feel to it … some heart wrenching moments … The author has created something that looks more into the complexity of what occurs after death. Bordering on the comic side in parts, Melissa is certainly not your everyday type of read but one that will certainly open your mind” (Sarah Hardy, By the Letter Book Reviews).
“A fantastic, almost hallucinatory, totally original read” (Sharon Eckman).
” … loved Melissa – music and maths and grief all packaged up in a compelling story” (C. G. Menon).
Research Notes on Melissa:
You can read about some of the research behind the novel in a short essay on Necessary Fiction here.
You can read a short article about the novel, grief, neurology and music in Litro Magazine here.
Interviews about Melissa:
You can read interviews about writing, music and the novel:
with Chris Rice Cooper here
with Anne Williams here
and on Writer Story here