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The Song Is You

3.26  ·  Rating details ·  1,838 Ratings  ·  356 Reviews
BONUS: This edition contains a The Song Is You discussion guide and excerpts from Arthur Phillips's The Tragedy of Arthur, Prague, The Egyptologist, and Angelica.

Each song on Julian’s iPod, “that greatest of all human inventions,” is a touchstone. There are songs for the girls from when he was single, there’s the one for the day he met his wife-to-be, there’s one for the d
ebook, 332 pages
Published April 7th 2009 by Random House (first published January 1st 2009)
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Apr 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
And there I was, minding my own business on a Sunday afternoon, when suddenly I could not put down "The Song Is You" by Arthur Phillips. It was like I got hit over the head with a love mallet. It had to be, because for the first third of the book I was trudging through Phillips' metaphor mud, wondering why a character couldn't just wave his hands. He had to be "waving at the air as if bees were approaching his ragged beard with colonial intent." Etc., etc., etc.

(As a metaphor abuser myself, I'm
Mar 30, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I read the gorgeously written prologue at the bookstore, and was convinced that it was well worth the $10.05 I'd pay with my employee discount. Boy, was I wrong.

I have to say, skimming through the reviews that I'm a little bit surprised by the comments. Am I the only one who didn't enjoy the prose in this book? I found the vast majority of Phillips' sentences to be poorly constructed. Half of them ended in a place so far removed from the beginning of the sentence that I had to read them twice i
Oct 19, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Angela by: nytimes review
In The Song is You, reformed philanderer Julian pursues Cait, a musician half his age rising to fame on her regrettably named demo tape, Your Very Own Blithering Idiot. It's easy enough to predict how this one is going to go, because you've seen it before.

At its heart, the novel is Philips's attempt to share his love of music, but that's a difficult thing to write about. Either the references chosen are so pedestrian that they're dated and tedious (Audrey Niffenegger we're looking at you), or th
Apr 21, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
phillips has a knack for looking deeply into his characters and extracting something that his readers can understand and empathize with.

on the surface, this seems like a love story. it is, in fact, a love story. its also a lust story, a sad story, and an unrequited love story.

i'm providing this review just mere hours after completing the book, and, honestly, i almost think i need a week or so of digestion before writing a fitting review. this i will say: it is painstakingly real human emotion.
Jun 17, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Arrrgggghhhh, I really like Arthur Phillips and I was SO excited to like his newest book that I bought it in HARDBACK. But I didn't like it, I didn't even finish it. WAY too wordy. It was like his beautiful prose that I enjoyed so much in Prague was on steroids....sometimes there really can be a little too much metaphor. Anyway, it also didn't help that it was 1) a mid-life crisis story (thankfully, at 30, I can't identify with this in any way, shape or form) and 2) full of very unsympathetic (s ...more
Apr 18, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book more than I did. I tried. When I found out it was a love story that included music and I-pod addiction - it grabbed my interest. I wanted to get into the love story and feel what the characters did, but I couldn't. I did connect with them through their music addiction, but that is about it. At first, I liked the idea of the mysterious love affair and how it started. Then it ended up getting to the point where it was downright creepy! (and honestly, it takes a lot to cr ...more
Stafford Davis
The critically lauded Arthur Phillips and his fourth novel, The Song Is You, is a 21st century meditation on love and music that washes the reader in poetic prose and imagery, but ultimately amounts to ‘old wine in a new bottle’ or for me, just plain old bullshit.

Phillips’ writing is amazingly good, and it’s on constant display throughout. He’s a natural at writing prose that’s poetic and effective. Much of the praise this novel has amassed is due in part to his skillful writing that weaves narr
Sep 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This fascinating hipster love story isn't quite as charming as (500) Days of Summer, but I was enchanted by it anyway. The main protagonist (Julian) is a director with a self-consciously astounding collection of music on his iPod, and the novel is generally about his love for Cait, a young Irish rock star on the rise. Their courtship is truly unique, as he gives her hard advice to make her a better artist, and she begins writing the next steps of the relationship into her songs. As the love stor ...more
Aug 01, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book barely made it past the 50 page test, but I persevered, sure I would eventually like it. Then on page 101, this sentence appeared and I knew it was over:

"Like an arrogant government minister forced by revolution into faraway exile where he can only find work as a cabdriver and who then assumes that all his fares despise him as completely as he would have despised immigrant cabdrivers in his home country back when he was a man of power, so it now was with the former lead singer of Refle
switterbug (Betsey)
And I can't get it out of my head...

This book is a ballad, a haunting ballad that continues to play its plaintive notes in my head, like a refrain. Don't be fooled by the product description (of a man in love with his ipod). This is not a jaunty, trendy escape tale. This is for serious readers who love literature, and who love literature to descant.

Julian Donahue is middle-aged, affluent, and adrift. After his son's death, his marriage unravels, but he remains tightly wound. He has a successful
Mar 14, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rose by: Goodreads suggestion (related books)
Beautiful cover, brilliant prologue, interesting premise, terrible execution. That pretty much sums up my review of "The Song Is You" by Arthur Phillips. Don't get me wrong, I love beautiful lines of prose (and Arthur Phillips can write very well - my hat tips to him) and I love music-themed books, but this was one of the examples of how not to use music within a story. The references to Julian Donahue's Ipod in this story were too much and more telling than they were showing in natural veins. A ...more
Jul 06, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jennifer H
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book. There was so much potential. I absolutely loved the beginning ("Julian Donahue's generation were the pioneers of portable headphone music, and he began carrying with him everywhere the soundtrack to his days when he was fifteen."). Even though I am just beyond the main character's generation, I get the soundtrack to life thing - how to hear a song reminds you of some past time and it's hard to separate that memory from the song. Good songs can get ruined by per ...more
Kasa Cotugno
Anyone who has seen the evolution from 33 1/3 to compact disc to digital download will be able to relate to this book, at least parts of it if not the plot romance. The part that music plays in contemporary life if visceral, and the ability to have an entire library in your pocket is to me still a miracle. Julian is described as not knowing the names of the sharps and flats, but knowing the emotional trigger they can provide. The beautiful prologue, for instance, describing his father's love for ...more
May 25, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was intrigued by the premise of The Song Is You, the latest offering by Arthur Phillips, the bestselling author of Prague: the power of music, its ability to invoke emotion and bring to mind memories, both the good and the not so good.

Julian Donahue is a 40-something director of commercials in Manhattan. Julian inherited his love for music from his father, who lost his leg in the Korean War. Before his deployment, he attended a Billie Holiday concert at the Galaxy Theater, where he met his fut
I must say, I was rather pleased with The Song Is You. It's not that I didn't expect to enjoy this, because I did, but I also expected to feel like it was missing a small something. That's how I felt about Prague and The Egyptologist, both works that I enjoyed, but ultimately finished feeling a teensy bit dissatisfied (and also feeling like they went on just a touch too long). No matter what, though, I still really enjoy Phillips' writing style -- which is why I keep reading his stuff. When Libr ...more
Jul 28, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I found The Song Is You to be ridiculous and amateurish, far beneath the level of Prague. The friendship/flirtation "relationship" between "Cannonball" and Cait is strictly schoolgirl-fantasy stuff.

What I do like about the book is how it shows how much some of us are affected by music. For Julian, or Julian's father, music is even more than the soundtrack to real life. It's food, fuel, inspiration, a driving force. It's also what happens to propel both men to meeting their wives (neither of who
Apr 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: oh they'll be hearing from me soon
Recommended to Rachel by: Arthur Phillips
In this book, Mr. Phillips is only several atoms away from doing what I most love to read authors doing: a kind of gentle postmodern magical realism, which doesn't necessarily include actual magic or anything literally fantastical, but dabbles in the dreamlike, the linguistically indulgent, the poetic in its storytelling. It's almost perfect, even in its rather uncomfortable moments (of which there are several). The lines between what is really happening, what a character is imagining, and what ...more
Apr 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful, joyful (yet terribly sad), haunting, frustrating. That's how I'd describe The Song is You in ten words or less.

Now for more words.

Reading it, I often found myself in an intense state of panic. The action itself crawls, and yet the future of the story constantly feels frighteningly urgent. Arthur Phillips completely ignores the rule of "show, don't tell" by filling the vast majority of his story with exposition over action and dialogue, and yet it seems okay. Even necessary. Through so
So I am torn by this book. On one hand it is a great story of an unconsummated love affair. It absolutely captures the obsessive mental energies that can be spent on another person even--no especially--one with whom we have little to no actual contact. The middle sections were funny and cute and wonderful (end of Spring and most of Summer). However, it took me 3 days to read the first part (Winter) and I was rather bored through Fall at the end (although that was a mere 17 pages).

I am also not a
I’ve been meaning to read this book for years now, ever since it came out in Hungarian. It looked just like the perfect novel for me: pop music, New York, a love story – what’s not to like? Especially since I grew up on Nick Hornby and his pop culture evangelism. This book, however… this was the biggest disappointment ever.

The premise is somewhat of a cliché (which shouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but in this case, I feel everything is a problem): the burnt out ad director, Julian, who can’t
Apr 29, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i saw arthur phillips in a live interview and admit that i was impressed: witty, charismatic, and whip-smart while still maintaining an air of nonchalance. i found his writing to be much the same way. the characters in this book were annoyingly engaging. main character julian donahue's pitiful, yet beautiful, attempt to capture the heart of young up-and-coming irish singer/songwriter/vixen cait o'dwyer was as gorgeous as such a frustrating relationship could ever hope to be. phillips pulls at th ...more
Apr 07, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't finish this book. The main character is a navel-gazer who bonks models and cheats on his wife, his brother is an annoying savant who is obsessed with entering contests (how original), and the love interest is an annoying Irish "Rock Singer" whose guitarist is in love with her fiery Jimi Hendrix-covering soul (what hipster rock chick really covers Jimi Hendrix now a days? Just seems really 1990s. No offense, Jimi). Plus, it all takes place in MANHATTAN, which I'm sorry, it needs to be ...more
I never read 'Prague', and the only reason I picked this up was probably due to a interview with the author, all about how music affects the lives of individuals and where it stands in courtship, memory, etc...I was hoping the book would be even more fascinating. Instead, all that stuff about music is more of a quiet backdrop to what boils down to a fairly ordinary midlife-crisis-type love story (ordinary only after you subtract the effects of a disturbingly stalkerly courtship--one th ...more
Sep 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay... this one is complicated. I have to admit that I came into this novel with a lot of trepidation, as 1) both my wife and one of my dearest interweb friends had already read this and HATED it; and 2) I'd read Phillips' debut "Prague" several years back and HATEDHATEDHATED it with a truly unreasonable passion. So to say I was surprised to find myself enjoying this novel is something of an understatement. But I did: Phillips has a gorgeous, lyrical way with words, and he tells his story in gr ...more
Heather Knight
Jul 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love everything Arthur Phillips writes, but this novel, which manages to blend in hundreds of musical references while still maintaining its own poetry, is one of his best.

As usual, his characters are obsessed, with themselves and others, to the point of paralysis and insanity. You want to shake them, slap them, call the police ... but, of course, you see in them the same things you yourself could do if cooler instincts didn't prevail.

In fact, one of the things I loved most about this was th
Jul 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This isn't one I was instantly drawn to, and I was even a bit skeptical, but it turned out to be a case of something being on the shelf and eventually the time will be right. It's similar to Nick Hornby's Juliet, Naked in some ways, though Hornby's writing is breezier.

But no, music lasted longer than anything it inspired. (p. 14)

Great music, his father used to lecture him, was often made by wretched people. The wise fan carefully avoided learning anything about the creators of any music that mat
Sep 26, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can't say I enjoyed the novel completely. Phillips is Chabon and Canin placed in a blender. There are sections here--involving Julian's father--that are as breathtaking and brilliant in the vein of 'Carry Me Across the Water.' I wanted Phillips to stay there and ditch the romantic play between Cait and Julian. 2 novels squeezed into one with the less interesting--yet still gorgeously written--novel occupying much of the space. Phillips strained some of his credibility with his plotting only to r ...more
Nov 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Evaluation: I rarely get the reading experience I had here of a love story being a page-turning edge-of-my-seat kind of experience. And part of the love story was mine, as I fell for the author’s beautifully engineered phrases (e.g., in addition to the quotes given above, referring to face-to-face encounters as “archaic forms of human interaction” and testing the waters of a relationship as taking an “escargotically slow approach”). This is a wonderful book for reading and discussing in the comp ...more
Lauren Albert
Feb 05, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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“Love is not sufficient. It never has been. Stories that claim otherwise are lies. There's always SOMETHING after happily ever after.” 24 likes
“How much of life could he spend aching? Aching is not a stable condition; it must resolve into something” 17 likes
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