The Thrill Of It All by Joseph O’Connor
Robbie Goulding is a Hiberno-English teenager in Luton, just outside London, with a normal longing for stardom. He has colourful parents, especially his Irish father, Jimmy, and an older brother with whom he maintains a healthy rivalry based on adoration.
It’s when Robbie meets Fran Mulvey, a Vietnamese orphan raised by a questionable Irish couple in Luton, that our lead protagonist feels that his dreams might be realised. Fran is a special sort of person. It’s not just his exotic looks, but also his devil-may-care attitude. He can be seen walking around Luton wearing a dress which is a strange sight even in the 1980’s. Fran is a performer with a fierce and considerable intellect. He is therefore the perfect front-man for Robbie’s path to glory and riches.
When the troublesome duo meet Trez Sherlock and her twin brother, Seán, the players are all assembled for their roller-coaster ride through the turbulent world of the music industry. The Ships In The Night are thus born. We readers are then treated to front row seats as we gaze upon their precarious rise to the top as they battle their way through apathy, poor timing, infighting and youthful indiscretions.
It’s an interesting tale. The characters are engaging and fairly consistent. The pangs of teenage love are well-presented and poignant. The pace of the story is solid with enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing throughout. The action moves from Luton to London to New York to Dublin. There are tears borne of both happiness and despair as Robbie struggles to cope with his new life and its pressures. The Thrill Of It All is a great examination of how difficult it can be when young friends eventually make it, but are ultimately punished by their success. Looking at the history of many well known rock bands, the story depicted is commonplace.
Joseph O’Connor writes well and with confidence. Jimmy Goulding is similar in disposition to Jimmy Rabbitte Snr, he of The Commitments fame. That’s no bad thing and Jimmy Goulding does only have a sparkling cameo role in this novel. He has competition with the band themselves as chief jester. All are capable of entertaining both on and off the stage. Together, they will hold you tightly to the pages of this novel until the satisfying conclusion.
Sult scale rating: 7 out of 10. Fans of the eighties (that’s the nineteen-eighties), or those who lived through those times will get more out of this book. Yet everyone will gain some sense of enjoyment from what is not a life-changing story, but is nevertheless a fine read. Rebel Voice recommends that you take it to the beach, sit back and relax, and partake of the life of young English folks of Irish ancestry as they try desperately to get through life whilst leaving their mark.