Cass Wheeler - a British singer-songwriter, hugely successful since the early 70s, whose sudden disappearance from the music has been the subject of intense speculation among her fans - is in the studio that adjoins her home, taking a journey back into her past. Her task is to choose sixteen songs from among the hundreds she has written since her early teens, for a uniquely personal Greatest Hits record, describing the arc of her life through song.It has been over a decade since Cass last put out an album; ten years since a tragedy catapulted her into a breakdown. In the course of this one day - both ordinary and extraordinary - each song Cass plays sets off a chain of memories, leading us deep into her past, and into the creative impulse that has underpinned her work.This is the story of a life - of highs and lows, love and separation, success and failure. Of what it is to live a fulfilled life, and how to make peace with our mistakes.
Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett is published in hardback by W&N on 15 June 2017, and is the author's second novel. I read and reviewed her first, The Versions of Us, here on Random Things in in July 2015.
Greatest Hits is clever, intriguing, so original and absolutely beautifully written. I do believe that I have found one of my Top Reads of 2017. This is a wonderful novel that feels so personal, so intimate and so familiar.
The story takes a circular journey, beginning early one morning as Cass Wheeler prepares for a party at her house. Cass has known fame and glory, accompanied by tragedy and sorrow throughout her life. For the past few years she's hidden herself away from the world. She's been vulnerable and scarred by life events, but today is a turning point.
Acclaimed singer and song writer Cass had the world at her feet in the heady days of the late 60s and 1970s. She was Britain's answer to Janis Joplin and Joan Baez, topping the charts with her own songs, accompanied by her partner Ivor. For the past ten years she's been silent, but finally, she has agreed to release a Greatest Hits album, with newly written songs recorded alongside the old favourites.
As Cass listens to each of the sixteen old tracks, her memories are awakened and the reader becomes a passenger on her life journey. Laura Barnett has recaptured the glamour of the music business in the 60s and 70s, but does not shy away from detailing the seedy, darker side that shadow Cass's memories. The research that has gone into Greatest Hits is outstanding, with the fashions, the music and the popular culture of the time described in vivid detail.
The novel's journey ends on the evening of the day that it started, yet it covers fifty years of Cass's life in incredible details, Filled with characters who burst from the page, dealing with almost unbearable sorrows and incredible highs, Greatest Hits is an absolute triumph. I loved every single page, and could quite happily have read another 400 pages.
Elegant and sophisticated, Greatest Hits is another sure-fire winner from this incredibly talented young author. I will be buying copies to thrust into the hands of my friends.
My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.
A UNIQUE PARTNERSHIP: Laura Barnett is working with acclaimed singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams on a very exciting collaboration for Greatest Hits. Together they have written the lyrics and Kathryn has written the music for the songs featured in Greatest Hits, which Kathryn will release as a studio album to coincide with the book's publication in June 2017 through her record label One Little Indian.
Kathryn, whose recent studio album Hypoxia was based on Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, began her career in 1999 and has been nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and has recorded twelve studio albums.
Laura and Kathryn will embark on a tour of events to promote both book and album.
Find out how their collaboration came about and listen to the first song on the album at:
Her bestselling debut novel, The Versions of Us, was published in May 2015 and has been translated into 23 languages. TV rights have been optioned by Trademark Films.
As a freelance arts journalist, features writer and theatre critic, Laura has worked for the Guardian, the Observer, the Daily Telegraph and other national newspapers and magazines.
Her first non-fiction book, Advice from the Players - a compendium of advice for actors - was published in 2014 by Nick Hern Books.
Find out more at
Follow her on Twitter @laura_jbarnett