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?
EMMA BRODIE has worked in book publishing for a decade, most recently as an executive editor at Little, Brown’s Voracious imprint. She graduated from the Johns Hopkins University’s Writing Seminars program, and is a longtime contributor to HuffPost and a faculty member at Catapult. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their dog, Freddie Mercury.
While this book may appear to be simply a fictional depiction of a true love affair, it’s way more than that. It describes attitudes to women in general, in the music industry and the things they had to do to even be noticed.
You truly invest yourself in this historical fiction story and actually feel as if you are part of it. Not just reading it, but part of a lively, living story that you could easily be a character in. It was like peeping over the shoulder of the books heroine, and for a short while engrossing yourself totally in her world. An amazing read, a book to lose yourself in this summer.
With thanks to Jen Harlow at Harper Collins for the advanced reading copy of this book.