At first blush, The Melody by Jim Crace is a simple, bittersweet tale of an aging crooner nearing the end of his illustrious career. But by the time you’re a few pages into this slim volume, you realise it’s more than a simple tale — it’s a haunting story of love and loss, empathy and inequity and the galvanising power of memory, hunger and fear, “the timeless, universal fear of anyone less lucky than ourselves.” While it’s an easy read, it isn’t a book you’ll easily forget. When we meet Alfred Busi (affectionately known as Mister Al), he’s only occasionally singing his classics in small venues in the unnamed Mediterranean town where he’s lived all his life.
On the eve of what is likely his last big concert, he’s attacked in his home. By what, it isn’t clear.
The Melody leaves you with more questions than answers. Those answers can’t be found in the book itself, which will linger in your mind, like a song you can’t get out of your head. A song with a tune you clearly remember, that you can hum to yourself — but you can never quite remember the words.