Greatest Hits
The new novel from the author of the number one bestseller THE VERSIONS OF US.One day. Sixteen songs. The soundtrack of a lifetime...Alone in her studio, Cass Wheeler is taking a journey back into her past. After a silence of ten years, the singer-songwriter is picking the sixteen tracks that have defined her - sixteen key moments in her life - for a uniquely personal Greatest Hits album.In the course of this one day, both ordinary and extraordinary, the story of Cass's life emerges - a story of highs and lows, of music, friendship and ambition, of great love and great loss. But what prompted her to retreat all those years ago, and is there a way for her to make peace with her past?Daughter. Mother. Singer. Lover. What are the memories that mean the most?

Greatest Hits Details

TitleGreatest Hits
Author
FormatHardcover
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 15th, 2017
PublisherW&N
ISBN1474600204
ISBN-139781474600200
Number of pages320 pages
Rating
GenreFiction, Contemporary, Literary Fiction

Greatest Hits Review

  • Paromjit
    February 16, 2017
    I found this a brilliant and unusual read. It is a fictional biography of the flawed life and times of the British singer and songwriter Cass Wheeler. It rings so true and authentic that it is hard to credit that it is indeed fictional. Cass had been a wildly successful musician until her sudden and abrupt departure from the music scene when tragedy struck and she suffered a breakdown. This has not prevented a host of rumours and speculation as to what exactly happened to her.Now in the present, I found this a brilliant and unusual read. It is a fictional biography of the flawed life and times of the British singer and songwriter Cass Wheeler. It rings so true and authentic that it is hard to credit that it is indeed fictional. Cass had been a wildly successful musician until her sudden and abrupt departure from the music scene when tragedy struck and she suffered a breakdown. This has not prevented a host of rumours and speculation as to what exactly happened to her.Now in the present, Cass is in the process of selecting sixteen songs from her huge back catalogue which serve to inform us of her life story through the songs and lyrics. Each of the songs is the structure for this book. Nostalgia and memories pour out from Cass, going back and forth in time to illuminate her very full life and the artistic and compulsive drive within her that inspires the songs. What emerges is a poignant journey into the past that provides an opportunity to understand her mistakes and come to terms with all that life has thrown at her and find some measure of peace. She had an uneasy childhood, unsettled teenage years, marriage, separation, and became a mother with all the attendant demands that placed on her and having to come to terms with mental health issues. The mismatch between being a mother and a hungry and devouring music industry is outlined. There is real emotional power to Cass's story and you really feel it in the narrative. The highs and lows of a life in music that captures an era in British cultural history. It gives an unfiltered personal history, with joy, love, failures, regrets and all that it takes to live delivered beautifully through the frame of the music, songs and lyrics which define Cass Wheeler. Such a wonderful and unusual read which I highly recommend. Thanks to Orion for an ARC.
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  • Louise Wilson
    May 26, 2017
    This is a fictional biography of the British singer and songwriter Cass Wheeler. Cass was a successful musician and then she had a breakdown. Cass Wheeler is taking a journey back into her past. After a silence of ren years, the singer - songwriter is picking sixteen tracks that have defined her. Sixteen key moments in her life - for a uniquely personal Greatest Hits album. In the course of one day the story of Cass's life emerges. The highs and lows of music, friendship, ambition, love and grea This is a fictional biography of the British singer and songwriter Cass Wheeler. Cass was a successful musician and then she had a breakdown. Cass Wheeler is taking a journey back into her past. After a silence of ren years, the singer - songwriter is picking sixteen tracks that have defined her. Sixteen key moments in her life - for a uniquely personal Greatest Hits album. In the course of one day the story of Cass's life emerges. The highs and lows of music, friendship, ambition, love and great loss.What a unique idea. To write the story of your life through songs. We all have a song that we remember good and bad times. I loved this book. A good read with some good music from the 1960's and 1970's.I would like to thank NetGalley, Orion Publishing and the author Laura Barnett for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Jules
    June 5, 2017
    I really wanted to love this character driven novel. From the title, cover and blurb I expected to love this book, but sadly it was not meant to be. I think one reason may be that I recently read such a beautifully emotional book that I struggled to let go of and failed to fully throw myself into this story. I also wasn’t really that keen on Cass, so I’m sure that shaped my enjoyment of the book. My favourite character was actually her dad, so if anything I wanted to read more about him.The way I really wanted to love this character driven novel. From the title, cover and blurb I expected to love this book, but sadly it was not meant to be. I think one reason may be that I recently read such a beautifully emotional book that I struggled to let go of and failed to fully throw myself into this story. I also wasn’t really that keen on Cass, so I’m sure that shaped my enjoyment of the book. My favourite character was actually her dad, so if anything I wanted to read more about him.The way this book was written was an interesting one. Cass is in the process of putting together a greatest hits album, and she doesn’t want to choose the most obvious famous songs, but the ones that mean the most to her. Each chapter starts with a song title and lyrics, which then leads on to her memories linked to that song. Her memories cover subjects such as her childhood, relationship with her parents, her first love and beyond.
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  • Wendy (Little Bookness Lane)
    February 9, 2017
    It's confirmed. Laura Barnett is a storytelling virtuoso, and I feel blessed to have Greatest Hits sitting on my bookshelf. This glorious melody of words and lyrics will take you by the heart and walk you through a sublime pilgrimage to heal a soul. The guests will be arriving soon, a network of cogs in the Cass Wheeler machine. Before she opens the doors of her home to them it is her task to make a selection of her Greatest Hits , an ensemble of the vivid memories fashioned by the years. The It's confirmed. Laura Barnett is a storytelling virtuoso, and I feel blessed to have Greatest Hits sitting on my bookshelf. This glorious melody of words and lyrics will take you by the heart and walk you through a sublime pilgrimage to heal a soul. The guests will be arriving soon, a network of cogs in the Cass Wheeler machine. Before she opens the doors of her home to them it is her task to make a selection of her Greatest Hits , an ensemble of the vivid memories fashioned by the years. Their individual association to Cass is explored with an introduction of a song, its poignant verse and chorus presented in a familiar format for you to absorb.As Cass is a natural conductor of emotions channelling her experiences into music it’s wonderful not only to see the origins of her music but how it evolved. Including the year of release and crediting the supporting artists gave a genuine sense of who had walked into onto the stage at a given time and where they fit into the story. Those she remembers with fondness like her friend and assistant, Kim, who can pluck a solution out of thin air. Then there are those who manufactured the problems, perhaps not always with intent, but still.During the course of an early morning until the evening falls, the bright spark of talent in a young naive songwriter builds to a crescendo of the icon who stepped back from the bright lights. A veteran of life whose playlist of her past is taking shape: a musician’s spirit, a daughter’s memories, a mother’s anguish. It’s an intensely personal and therapeutic process inviting heart breaking reservations to surface after they’d been long buried. And as Cass Wheeler says:"…like meeting myself again. Or the person I used to be, anyway." Greatest Hits is a memoir where the writer allows us to read between the lines. It’s all purely fictional of course, and yet these people are anything but two-dimensional characters on a page. They are expressive and unique, afflicted by passion, envy and sorrow. It’s truly, truly wonderful in every way imaginable and I can't recommend it highly enough. This book is a keeper, for sure.(I must say a massive thank you to the author, Rebecca Gray and the publisher for kindly providing an advanced copy of this book. It gives me great pleasure to provide this unbiased review.)
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  • Thebooktrail
    April 19, 2017
    Read this with a cuppa and put the record of the book soundtrack on! Travel to the locations in the novel: Booktrail it to a musical placeWhat a lovely and unique idea for a novel - the story of your life told through song. A book of memories which conjures up the great singer song writers of their day and the songs you yourself have written. The Greatest Hits is a clever title as well as a clever idea - we all have soundtracks to our lives don't we? Songs we remember as a child - where we were, Read this with a cuppa and put the record of the book soundtrack on! Travel to the locations in the novel: Booktrail it to a musical placeWhat a lovely and unique idea for a novel - the story of your life told through song. A book of memories which conjures up the great singer song writers of their day and the songs you yourself have written. The Greatest Hits is a clever title as well as a clever idea - we all have soundtracks to our lives don't we? Songs we remember as a child - where we were, what we were doing, the smells of that hot day on the beach whilst something was playing on the radio?Music is so powerful and so evocative - it's very clever to write the story of your life through songs - and the author is working with a real life musician to record them as they appear in the book lyrics too! Of course Cassie in the book is fictional but by the end I was starting to believe she was as famous as Janis Joplin and somehow I'd missed her music. A homage to British music and the British music scene of the 1960s and 1970s.
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  • Lorrie
    January 10, 2017
    Ooooohhh!!! Good book!! The intense and multi-dimensional aspects of love and loss are so extraordinarily spun throughout this richly textured, deeply layered story; while, at the same time, bringing life and even like-ability to the deeply flawed characters. Wow!! Loved it!! Thank you Orion Publishing and NetGalley for allowing the privilege of this ARC.
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  • Jackie Law
    June 11, 2017
    “Larry knows what it is to lose oneself for hours – days, even – in the act of creation; and to only understand, when the mind and body are finally calm once more, what it is that has been created. What, in that act, the artist is trying to make sense of, even though no sense can ever truly be made of this dizzying, maddening, impossible, beautiful life; and, of course, of its culmination, its crescendo and its inevitable loss.”Greatest Hits, by Laura Barnett, tells the story of fictional singer “Larry knows what it is to lose oneself for hours – days, even – in the act of creation; and to only understand, when the mind and body are finally calm once more, what it is that has been created. What, in that act, the artist is trying to make sense of, even though no sense can ever truly be made of this dizzying, maddening, impossible, beautiful life; and, of course, of its culmination, its crescendo and its inevitable loss.”Greatest Hits, by Laura Barnett, tells the story of fictional singer-songwriter, Cass Wheeler, from her childhood growing up the only child of a London vicar and his depressed wife, through her rise to the heady heights of international fame, and then to her retirement from the music scene following personal tragedy. Along the way are exhausting months on the road, abandoned friends, broken marriages, and the apparently requisite over-indulgence in drugs of all kinds.The structure of the story is wrapped around a series of sixteen songs representing Wheeler’s life. The lyrics – written by the author and real life singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams – have been put to music and will be released as a studio album to coincide with the publication of the book. This is not the first time publishers have collaborated to create associated music – I am aware of singles from Fahrenheit Press and Orenda Books. It is still, however, an interesting idea.The story is set over the course of a day as Wheeler decides on the tracks to be released from her back catalogue in a new album being planned to enable her to emerge from retirement. As each song is selected the timeline moves to describe the events that provided their inspiration. Hints are dropped in the contemporary setting and then explained in these flashbacks. With a cast of characters spanning more than six decades it took concentration to remember who was who between the time periods.Although polished and fluid I was not fully engaged until near the end. The contemporary sections felt like interruptions in what was an otherwise compelling tale. I did question why anyone would want fame, something that Wheeler herself noted when she saw the life an old friend was leading. Much is made of how artistic creatives cannot stifle their urges, even those that carry risk of self-destruction.There is a poignancy to any life story as, over time, family and friends will inevitably be lost to abandonment, disagreement, and death. Words will be spoken that cannot then be forgotten, resentments form that damage all involved. Wheeler makes choices, repeats mistakes, holds grudges and must live with the consequences. The depiction of her as a daughter – to both the women charged with her care – and then as a mother, made for interesting reading. There was little new in this but it was perceptively portrayed.Wheeler’s life with its hurts and privileges is rendered to demonstrate that success happens moment by moment and can be measured in many ways. Even if not convinced by the construction, this tale is well written. I will listen out for the album when it too is released.My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
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  • Cleo Bannister
    June 11, 2017
    Every now and again a book comes along that wows you with its richness; Greatest Hits is one such novel. There can’t be many people who don’t have a soundtrack to their lives, those songs that were the background to early years, the songs we fell in love to and those that we obsessively listened to as we attempt to mend wounded hearts; for many of us there is a tune that can turn back the years to a distant time and place. Laura Barnett has taken this idea and turned it into a densely woven stor Every now and again a book comes along that wows you with its richness; Greatest Hits is one such novel. There can’t be many people who don’t have a soundtrack to their lives, those songs that were the background to early years, the songs we fell in love to and those that we obsessively listened to as we attempt to mend wounded hearts; for many of us there is a tune that can turn back the years to a distant time and place. Laura Barnett has taken this idea and turned it into a densely woven story.Cass Wheeler is a singer songwriter and Greatest Hits is the story of her life, exploring through her own lyrics the key events in her life from the earliest days with her decidedly less than maternal mother Margaret and her father, the local vicar Francis, who would read to her from adult books to sooth her to the woman she is now, reflecting on her years of silence, having turned her back on music. For Cass there were no songs left to write and no music to fill her days.Greatest Hits is supported by a wonderful cast of characters who in turn support Cass through her life, most notably Aunt Lily and her assistant Kim. With any book spanning decades the links to the past are most important and in true reflection of real life we also see that some people are in our lives for brief amounts of time, but nonetheless have a huge impact as was the case with her childhood friend, Irene, and perhaps more importantly Irene’s mother who provided the mothering that was bereft from her own life. All of these different yet vivid characters provide the supporting acts to Cass’s story.Each of the sixteen long chapters are headed up with one of the titles of the songs that Cass is compiling of the music that reflects her life. Below the title we have some lyrics from the songs as well as the fictional release date and other recording details. We therefore dive back to the early days and those memories, whilst in the present we have some clues as to the tragedy that struck Cass and led to her disappearing from her successful music career at its height in the 1970s to the withdrawing from life as well as music in the early 2000s. This layering of a story is exceptionally well done and Laura Barnett weaves the past and the present convincingly with the brightness of the triumphs with the depths of despair not forgetting those more mundane or mixed emotions which all of us experience.Despite not being a famous singer, and not having spent my life penning songs or living in the lap of luxury and only being born as Cass was releasing her early music, Cass’s life felt like one I could have been part of, so evocative were the descriptions and so rich in both characters and writing style. This is a book to wallow in with a story that transports its reader to a time and place far away. For those who really want to get the full experience a soundtrack is being produced with Kathryn Williams performing the songs contained within the book to be released in conjunction with this novel. But even without the added interactive element Greatest Hits is in my opinion a triumphant second book to follow up to  The Versions of Us which I also adored.
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  • Amanda
    June 3, 2017
    An author and a musician collaborate to tell a story. Laura Barnett, the author, embarking on that difficult second novel. Kathryn Williams, a singer songwriter, provides the songs that will unravel the life story of Cassandra Wheeler.Cassandra Wheeler, singer songwriter, now in her sixties is coming out of retirement, after many years living as a recluse.Cass will launch her greatest hits album with a number of new songs at a launch party, but before that she is going to sit in her studio and l An author and a musician collaborate to tell a story. Laura Barnett, the author, embarking on that difficult second novel. Kathryn Williams, a singer songwriter, provides the songs that will unravel the life story of Cassandra Wheeler.Cassandra Wheeler, singer songwriter, now in her sixties is coming out of retirement, after many years living as a recluse.Cass will launch her greatest hits album with a number of new songs at a launch party, but before that she is going to sit in her studio and listen to the songs that have shaped her life. No matter how painful the memories Cass is going to confront the past, and relive the events that have led her to this important day.It is a life that has had many twists and turns, many highs and lows. A childhood marred by an unloving absent mother, a marriage doomed from the start and a career that has led to all the wealth and material possessions that Cass could ever want. But what sacrifices , what has it cost her?Barnett, is clever and uses the lyrics from Cass's past songs to begin each chapter as well as to signify a different phase in Cass's life.The lyrics tie in beautifully. I particularly loved the poignant lyrics of 'Common Ground' used to describe her mother leaving without saying goodbye.As I read I tried to imagine the accompanying melody, the sound of Cass's voice and I cannot wait to hear Kathryn William's interpretation.The characters portray both the good and bad side of the music industry. From Cass's husband, Ivor Tait, losing himself in drugs, alcohol and abuse as their marriage falls apart to her wonderful personal assistant, Kim, who tries to protect her. Then there is the beautiful fragile daughter, Anna, caught in the middle of her warring parents, struggling to deal with life.Barnett's writing has the capacity to stir up a myriad of emotions in her reader and once or twice, I had to wipe away the odd stray tear.It was hard to turn the last page, to leave Cass and all the wonderful characters behind in what is a truly unique and memorable novel.Definitely one of the best novels so far this year.Thank you so much to Rebecca Gray for sending a proof copy for me to read and review.
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  • Anne
    April 6, 2017
    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 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 friendshttp://randomthingsthroughmyletterbox...
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  • Sarah Turner
    November 28, 2016
    I received this book with huge excitement - I adored Versions of Us. Easily one of my books of 2015. And then the fear set in that how could novel 2 live up to the expectations I had.I need not have worried. Versions of Us was not a one hit wonder. Greatest Hits is built around a loose structure of 16 tracks from a Greatest Hits album by the fictional Cass Wheeler. In the same way that Versions of Us's 3 differing versions gave us, the reader, an anchor and allowed us to navigate more easily bet I received this book with huge excitement - I adored Versions of Us. Easily one of my books of 2015. And then the fear set in that how could novel 2 live up to the expectations I had.I need not have worried. Versions of Us was not a one hit wonder. Greatest Hits is built around a loose structure of 16 tracks from a Greatest Hits album by the fictional Cass Wheeler. In the same way that Versions of Us's 3 differing versions gave us, the reader, an anchor and allowed us to navigate more easily between the chapters, so the 16 tracks in Greatest Hits give us that structure too, but in a completely different yet comforting way. The 16 tracks lead us through Cass's life from a child through to global success as a singer songwriter and into her later years. They lead us through an unsettled childhood and teens, through to early years as an emerging artist through to international stardom, marriage, motherhood and beyond. And the music is that backdrop. The music, that somehow the author manages to bring to life to the extent that I can hear the songs in my head just from reading her words on the paper, is truly magical. The book, on release, is going to be accompanied by an album - Songs from the Novel Greatest Hits - what an utterly fantastic treat this is going to be. I didn't know this when I first started the book - and by track 3 all I could think about was wanting to hear the music out loud that I could hear in my head. To create words on a page that give you those feels is everything.All the love for this book.
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  • Tara Lewis
    January 1, 2017
    First, thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me the opportunity to read this amazing novel. I'd not read Versions of Us but have bought it immediately upon finishing Greatest Hits.I've had some personal difficulties that have left me, a 3-4 novel a week reader, unable to finish anything other than an occasional graphic novel. Greatest Hits changed that, gripping me immediately and immersing me in the fascinating life of Cass Wheeler. As a character, Cass is so real, so beautifully First, thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me the opportunity to read this amazing novel. I'd not read Versions of Us but have bought it immediately upon finishing Greatest Hits.I've had some personal difficulties that have left me, a 3-4 novel a week reader, unable to finish anything other than an occasional graphic novel. Greatest Hits changed that, gripping me immediately and immersing me in the fascinating life of Cass Wheeler. As a character, Cass is so real, so beautifully and empathetically written, that I had to Google her after finishing the novel, so convinced I was that she was real. This is a story that feels vivid and plausible, full of rich relationships with their flaws and foibles. It is masterfully written and aware, with such a wealth of research into the times and the music industry that the reader completely suspends all disbelief and feels part of it. I could hear the chords, the rising voice, see the art installation (which dissolved me to tears), and the hope in the final paragraphs. I cannot recommend this book enough and cannot wait to place it in the hands of my readers.
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  • Sam Still Reading
    June 24, 2017
    I finished reading Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett just over a week ago and I’m suffering two problems. One, I can’t get this fantastic novel out of my mind. It’s a read that leads to significant book hangover. Two, I really don’t know how my review can possibly due to this book justice. I’ve thought of various angles but none of them seem to even be minutely worthy of the novel. Imploring you to read this won’t be enough (and it will make this review very boring). So let me tell you a bit about I finished reading Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett just over a week ago and I’m suffering two problems. One, I can’t get this fantastic novel out of my mind. It’s a read that leads to significant book hangover. Two, I really don’t know how my review can possibly due to this book justice. I’ve thought of various angles but none of them seem to even be minutely worthy of the novel. Imploring you to read this won’t be enough (and it will make this review very boring). So let me tell you a bit about this deceptive simple story that captures all the feels. Cass Wheeler is a singer. On one particular day, she’s decided to listen to her back catalogue and put together the songs that mean the most to her for a greatest hits album. She’ll listen all day, pick her favourites and then have a fantastic party to celebrate that night. It sounds easy, right? But for Cass, each song she wrote and performed is intensely personal. She hasn’t listened to her music for a long time, once distancing herself from the business completely. Listening opens up memories, emotions and reflections which are raw, painful, jubilant or buried. As she listens, she reflects on her life.That’s where the reader begins to hear the real story of Cass Wheeler, beyond the tabloids in this brutally honest reflection. It starts with her youth and works her way through her life to the present day (somewhere her in her sixties, if my calculations are correct). Each section talks about the present, then delving into Cass’s past and closing with the chosen song. The reader gradually gets an idea of Cass’s present and why she is where she is. It’s not until the end that we see Cass as a whole, naked, bruised and ultimately strengthened by her life. It’s a beautifully written journey, dealing with many issues from desertion to violence, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll (well, more folk in Cass’s life) and love. You can’t help but become a fan of Cass. Baring everything, she became someone I truly cared about. She felt as real as a friend. I wanted desperately for everything to turn out well for her to the point where I read well into the night just to ensure present Cass would have some happiness. Laura Barnett’s biggest strength is in the creation of characters that you feel could be real. (Though on the flip side, she makes some characters that you really wouldn’t want to get on the bad side of too!). That’s closely followed by her style of writing, which puts the reader on the scene, feeling and seeing everything that Cass does. It’s all so vivid, that you can’t help but feel Cass’s emotions.And if that wasn’t enough, there is an album to accompany Greatest Hits. Kathryn Williams (who gets her own mention within the story if you look closely enough) performs Cass’s songs (which she and Laura wrote, some in conjunction with others). It’s a unique experience, like if the book was brought to life and Cass could sing to the reader. I highly recommend giving it a listen, whether you read the book or not. It’s different from a film or TV show as it allows you as the reader to keep your own vision of Cass, but really hear her speak from the pages.Greatest Hits could well be my book of 2017, it’s that brilliant. Do yourself a favour and read it.Thanks to Hachette for the copy of this book. My review is honest.http://samstillreading.wordpress.com
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  • Breakaway Reviewers
    May 22, 2017
    The story of one woman’s life, loves and losses, told to the soundtrack of her music. Successful singer-songwriter Cass Wheeler disappeared from the music scene ten years ago after a personal tragedy. Now, she is preparing to release a ‘greatest hits album’ and sets aside a day to listen to all her tracks and select which ones to include. Behind each song is the story of an important event in Cass’s life – from her mother abandoning her in childhood to her first love affair and her early steps i The story of one woman’s life, loves and losses, told to the soundtrack of her music. Successful singer-songwriter Cass Wheeler disappeared from the music scene ten years ago after a personal tragedy. Now, she is preparing to release a ‘greatest hits album’ and sets aside a day to listen to all her tracks and select which ones to include. Behind each song is the story of an important event in Cass’s life – from her mother abandoning her in childhood to her first love affair and her early steps into the music industry – and as Cass remembers the past she struggles with the reminders of all the things she has lost over the years. However, as she delves deeper into her own memories and confronts her regrets and mistakes through her songs, she discovers that some things she had thought gone forever may still be with her. This book was extremely immersive, and as the narrative spans the entirety of Cass’s life from childhood to old age, the reader really feels like they get to know the main character inside out. Her life, told in the past tense as the present-day Cass looks back on the memories invoked by her music, is a rollercoaster of triumphs and highs interspersed with devastating lows and very rarely makes for a tedious read. The author has clearly done her research, and as the years pass in Cass’s life the reader becomes enveloped in the atmosphere of the music industry – both the glamour and excitement of being a singer but also the dark side of drugs, loneliness and the way Cass must sacrifice a ‘normal life’ in order to pursue her dreams. The background characters were also interesting, particularly Cass’s troubled husband Ivor, but unfortunately due to the introspective nature of the novel you never really get to know them or understand their feelings as well as I would have liked. The build-up to the tragedy that led to Cass’s retirement from music is cleverly constructed, so that you almost know exactly what is coming from very early on in the story but it still strikes a hard blow when you eventually get to it. I found these sections of the book particularly emotional and actually quite upsetting to read, which demonstrates how well they had been written. Initially, I found Cass a bit of an unsympathetic character despite her various troubles and, especially in the descriptions of her early life, she came across as quite irritating and selfish. However, as the book progressed through her life I began to feel sorry for her, and present-day Cass almost seemed to reflect on her young self in the same way as I had. My major criticism of ‘Greatest Hits’ would be that, although it was enjoyable and engrossing to read, nothing really seemed to happen in the ‘present day’ Cass section and the whole novel never really lost its reflective feel – like a greatest hits album, it was good but didn’t really give us anything new. Overall, this was an excellent novel from an obviously talented author from whom I would definitely be keen to read more. It has only just missed out on a perfect five star rating and I would still highly recommend it to anyone looking for a story in which they can lose themselves. Daenerys Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of the book to review.
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  • Hannah (Sakurahan or ForeverBooks18)
    June 26, 2017
    Hi Readers,I've just finished a great contemporary, Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett!3 Stars! - I got Greatest Hits to read through NetGalley so thanks to them for allowing me access. It was published on 15th June 2017 so is now available to buy. NOTE: Greatest Hits has some content to do with drugs. It's set in the mid 1990's when I believe drugs were seen as cool, though. There are some deaths of characters that are emotional scenes as well. Greatest Hits tells a biography, I suppose of this fic Hi Readers,I've just finished a great contemporary, Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett!3 Stars! - I got Greatest Hits to read through NetGalley so thanks to them for allowing me access. It was published on 15th June 2017 so is now available to buy. NOTE: Greatest Hits has some content to do with drugs. It's set in the mid 1990's when I believe drugs were seen as cool, though. There are some deaths of characters that are emotional scenes as well. Greatest Hits tells a biography, I suppose of this fictional singer named Cass Morgan. It tells the story from when she was born, in 1950 to present day. It describes all of the struggles that she has to cope with as well as the highs she experiences, throughout her career. Spoilers below...Cass doesn't get on with her mother at all when she's young. Her mother called her Maria but she doesn't like this name. Her father calls her Cassandra, her second name so she goes by Cass. When her mother abandons her and her father, she doesn't understand what she's done wrong. She finds her only peace when playing the piano, which a friend's Mum teaches her. She has to move in with her aunt and uncle when she's still young because her father can't cope. When she meets Ivor at a gig a few years later, she instantly falls for him. Cass and Ivor both have struggles in being together and this causes some friction. Ivor does drugs and is a bit of a wild boy, which Cass doesn't like. They disagree on lots of things, particularly when they start collaborating musically. There are happy, romantic things as well as heartbreaking things that happen to Cass. What did I like about Greatest Hits? I liked how the stories main focus was Cass and I liked seeing her grow up around music.I liked how the story had one main focus, Cass' life and music. There wasn't anything confusing about it. I liked seeing Cass' loves from her being a child. First we see her mother abandoning her, then we see her aunt taking her in, then her father declining to mental health, then we see Ivor take over her thoughts etc. What didn't I like about Greatest Hits?I found I was skipping over some of the music producing parts, which I could do and still keep up with what was going on in the story. This, I think meant the book didn't have to be so long in my opinion. I thought that the chapters were too long. Most chapters seemed to take 50 or more pages to finish (on my iPhone 6+). In fantasy, that's okay but in contemporary I enjoy and expect shorter chapters. Overall, I enjoyed Greatest Hits. The biggest drawback for me was how long the chapters are. I ultimately enjoyed seeing Cass' life though. If anything I would have made the chapters a lot shorter and maybe cut out some of the music producing parts as I don't think these were necessary to the overall story. That's why I'm giving Greatest Hits 3 Stars! Stand by for my next review coming soon...📖Belle📖
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  • Katherine
    June 15, 2017
    There will be so many people looking forward to reading this book after the success of Barnett's first book, The Versions of Us. I really enjoyed her debut novel and was delighted to be approved for an advanced copy of Greatest Hits by the publishers. Again, Barnett plays imaginatively with her storyline. Although there are not the three "versions" to follow as in her first book, here she still plays with a multilayered narrative. Posing as a memoir, this is a fictional account of a singer-songw There will be so many people looking forward to reading this book after the success of Barnett's first book, The Versions of Us. I really enjoyed her debut novel and was delighted to be approved for an advanced copy of Greatest Hits by the publishers. Again, Barnett plays imaginatively with her storyline. Although there are not the three "versions" to follow as in her first book, here she still plays with a multilayered narrative. Posing as a memoir, this is a fictional account of a singer-songwriter looking back on their life. Barnett has taken the form of something akin to "Desert Island Discs" and created her own mash up with Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway. It's incredibly effective. Once again, Barnett's gently, undulating novel that reads like a symphony of Cass's life would sound, shows her skill as a writer, the versatility of her writing. It also shows her tight control of story structure and how well she can manage plot lines and dual narratives. Each chapter starts with a song title, the lyrics, the release date and other relevant details which any music fan will recognise as the established format for archiving music tracks. I really liked this -it's a clear focus, a defined beginning for each new chapter and an effective way to shape the story of someone's life in an imaginative and fresh way. It also gave the book a sense of authenticity and invited the reader to form a closer bond with Cass. The chapters then allow Cass to talk about various different points in her life. Music is as evocative as smell - perhaps even more so, and has the ability to drag us back to a particular moment in time. Many of us will be able to quote the lyrics from songs we have not sung aloud to for twenty years. Barnett uses each chapter to move fluidly between the past and the present, helping Cass to make sense of her life so far and consider what it is that really defines her - or why particular memories are significant. The writing is as lyrical as you would expect for a protagonist posing as a song writer - and there is no doubt of Barnett's beautiful use of imagery and description. I loved her use of a "coven of girls" in the playground and how where her mother left, is was like "an article torn from the pages of a magazine". This is a reflective book, an absorbing read, a novel that uses the ups and downs of a musical crescendo to explore the highs and lows of a life. Although this is a very personal journey for Cass, it is one that the reader finds themselves drawn into. A great framework around which to build a novel about one person's life. It is sure to be as successful as her debut.
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  • Ophelia Reads
    May 29, 2017
    Now in her sixties, legendary singer songwriter Cass Wheeler has decided it's time to take stock of a life well (and sometimes, not so well) lived. Holing herself up in her studio, she endeavours to select the sixteen songs from her back catalogue which define her - her life, her loves, her losses. The result will be a deeply personal Greatest Hits album, laying Cass's life bare - but will she ever lay her ghosts to rest?Greatest Hits is an almost impossibly beautiful book. At once a sweeping sa Now in her sixties, legendary singer songwriter Cass Wheeler has decided it's time to take stock of a life well (and sometimes, not so well) lived. Holing herself up in her studio, she endeavours to select the sixteen songs from her back catalogue which define her - her life, her loves, her losses. The result will be a deeply personal Greatest Hits album, laying Cass's life bare - but will she ever lay her ghosts to rest?Greatest Hits is an almost impossibly beautiful book. At once a sweeping saga spanning decades and continents and the forensic re-telling of a long life, all human emotion is here. From the grey post-war Britain of liver and onions and violent fathers to the shores of Lake Geneva via smoke-fugged dive bars in American nowhere towns, this is a journey both literal and metaphorical. Laura Barnett's impeccable knack for storytelling, first demonstrated in the sublime The Versions of Us, is absolutely in evidence again here. Greatest Hits is not a rip-roaring fast paced tale, rather one to be savoured; a life spanning seven decades, and a career spanning scarcely less, demands a more sedate approach. That said, it is never, ever boring or slow; Barnett's exceptional talent for translating emotion to the page ensures our attention never wavers. Her characterisation is fearless and exceptional; she is not afraid to let the reader see Cass's every flaw - no innocent, perfect heroine, she. Shimmering prose and a vivid sense of time and place - be it the permissive 1960s or the brash 1980s - adds rich texture and a gorgeously evoked backdrop to Cass's life, while her relationships are beautifully, honestly and occasionally harrowingly drawn.An intoxicating tale with its roots in the 1970s folk rock scene, Greatest Hits combines lyricism with layers of vintage lace to create a nigh-on perfect novel. From Cass's hedonistic sixties heyday to the unforgiving, reflective onset of old age, this is a tale which resonates with us all, however humdrum our own lives; love, loss, joy and sorrow are themes all too familiar, and Barnett skillfully elicits empathy from the reader, so great is our connection with Cass.Greatest Hits is a poignant tale of a life, and one which sears itself onto the mind. Bittersweet and beautiful, it is truly unforgettable.My sincere thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Joan
    June 6, 2017
    Cass Wheeler, a much revered and talented singer songwriter, looks back over her life. Now well into her sixties she has arranged to spend a single day all alone in her recording studio preparing her latest and long awaited new album of sixteen of her songs. She is arranging her back catalogue into an honest and unforgiving musical autobiography straight from her heart. It will include tracks from her meteoric rise to stardom tours and some new songs that will tell of her loves, her losses, her Cass Wheeler, a much revered and talented singer songwriter, looks back over her life. Now well into her sixties she has arranged to spend a single day all alone in her recording studio preparing her latest and long awaited new album of sixteen of her songs. She is arranging her back catalogue into an honest and unforgiving musical autobiography straight from her heart. It will include tracks from her meteoric rise to stardom tours and some new songs that will tell of her loves, her losses, her highs and her lows, her joy and her heartbreak; each song written and performed by her, reflecting the various milestones in her life.A massive party has been arranged for afterwards by her loyal and loving PA and friend. Invited are her friends, her fellow musicians, people who have supported her act and journalists. It is a fully fledged reunion to end all reunions and is the first house party she has hosted for a long, long time. It is set to become the party of all parties and to herald the beginning of her musical and emotional comeback after a sabbatical of a decade. Her fans are ecstatic that she is releasing a new album after all of her trials and tribulations.I really loved the idea of this novel. It was highly original, very emotional and also well written. The story was told through flashbacks, memories, letters and through the songs Cass had written throughout her life. As she said herself, she had no power over what she wrote as the lyrics just came to her. I particularly loved the story of Maria Cassandra’s early life at the vicarage and also the story of her and her daughter. I thought the relationships were very interesting and well observed. I also felt very sorry for Cass as overall her life was sad and filled with drama, not always of her own making. However none of the main characters particularly endeared themselves to me and I found some of them extremely unlikable.I would like to thank NetGalley and publisher Weidenfeld & Nicolson for my copy of this book sent to me in return for an honest review. It gave great insight into the pressures of celebrity, of jealousy and of ambition. It made me feel quite downhearted but nevertheless I did enjoy reading it.
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  • Kate
    June 21, 2017
    I’m very keen on books that incorporate music into the story and I’m not fussy about the format it takes. Things I love: literary mix tapes; words put to song; songs put to words; and authors who include playlists in end-notes. So, of course I was going to read Laura Barnett’s latest, Greatest Hits.Greatest Hits is a fictional memoir. Singer-songwriter Cass Wheeler reflects on her life by choosing sixteen tracks that define her. Each chapter begins with the lyrics to one of her songs, followed b I’m very keen on books that incorporate music into the story and I’m not fussy about the format it takes. Things I love: literary mix tapes; words put to song; songs put to words; and authors who include playlists in end-notes. So, of course I was going to read Laura Barnett’s latest, Greatest Hits.Greatest Hits is a fictional memoir. Singer-songwriter Cass Wheeler reflects on her life by choosing sixteen tracks that define her. Each chapter begins with the lyrics to one of her songs, followed by Cass’s account of important events in her life. Cass’s childhood, in particular her relationship with her mother, sets the foundation for an interesting story, and it moves on to her troubled teen years, her discovery of music, her rise to fame, and her tumultuous relationship with fellow musician, Ivor.The book is largely a character study, and the action is limited. Barnett has done a good job at creating a sense of time and place but there were elements of this book that didn’t work for me. Primarily, the suspense is protracted. The story is not chronological and the multitude of hints and teasers dotted throughout meant that by the end there were no surprises. In fact, the plot seemed overworked and devoid of emotion.The childhood Barnett created for Cass gave her a rich platform for her story – so much of what happened with her parents could have lent itself to explaining Cass’s adult relationships. And yet, so much of ‘adult Cass’ seemed like it wasn’t anchored to these early experiences – a disconnect given that the book focuses on what defines us.I also had the sense that Barnett had made Cass a little too ‘good’. Sure, there was teenage mischief, but after leaving home Cass manages to steer clear of the the bad behaviour and over-indulgence in drugs that came with her rock-and-roll lifestyle. While months on the road took their toll on the people around her, particularly on their relationships, Cass avoids most of it. Again, parts of the story that could have been charged with emotion, were oddly flat.But here’s the really, really fabulous thing about this book: Barnett found a musician, Kathryn Williams, to record ‘Cass’s songs’. Barnett wrote the lyrics and left it to Williams to write the music and sing. You can hear the results here. It’s wonderful and I think Williams created Cass beautifully.2.5/5 I probably made an unfair comparison to the brilliant The Versions of Us.I received my copy of Greatest Hits from the publisher, Hachette Australia, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Beverley
    June 5, 2017
    The Versions of Us, Laura Barnett’s debut novel, is one of my absolute favourites. It made me do big, gulping sobs as I read the final chapters, is a book I have recommended frequently, one I still think about regularly and one of the very few books I have read for a second time so Greatest Hits, Laura Barnett’s second novel had quite a lot to live up to! I am very pleased to say I was not disappointed. Charting the life of Cass Wheeler a singer-songwriter, from her childhood as the daughter of The Versions of Us, Laura Barnett’s debut novel, is one of my absolute favourites. It made me do big, gulping sobs as I read the final chapters, is a book I have recommended frequently, one I still think about regularly and one of the very few books I have read for a second time so Greatest Hits, Laura Barnett’s second novel had quite a lot to live up to! I am very pleased to say I was not disappointed. Charting the life of Cass Wheeler a singer-songwriter, from her childhood as the daughter of a Vicar to the present day as a successful artist who has sold millions of tracks but has become somewhat of a recluse, we learn through sixteen of her songs the pivotal moments of her life and the people who have been part of it.Laura Barnett has such a beautiful writing style, it is richly textured and the characters are so well drawn; I could see beautiful Kate, fell in love with Kim and in my mind’s eye saw a gorgeous bad boy in Ivor, a man you know you should stay away from but he is too intoxicating to do so. One of Laura Barnett’s skills is weaving a story that is multi layered with a whole host of characters who, no matter how small a role they play in the book you identify with them. There are moments in the book that are heartbreaking, moments that are uplifting, others that made me angry and some which made me want to break out the pom-poms and do a big old cheer. If a book can make me feel like that then it is, in my opinion, a good one!I loved reading about the music scene of the 1960s and 1970s and the mentions of bands like Fleetwood Mac. The descriptions of Cass, luminous on stage were so evocative that I could almost hear the songs and smell the cigarette smoke as she sang in bars and clubs.Greatest Hits is more than a book about music, it is a saga about relationships, family (both those you are born with and those you make for yourself), love, hate and addiction. I couldn’t put this book down and had to ration it as it was so beautifully written and the temptation to gobble it up in one sitting was strong. This is a book that should be savoured.Cass is spending a day choosing sixteen songs that have defined her past, each section of the book is prefaced by the lyrics of the song giving a wonderful glimpse into what lies ahead. Wonderfully an album has been made of the songs from the book and this is released on the 16th June, I can’t wait to buy it – I listened to one of the songs after finishing the book and it was incredibly beautiful; Greatest Hits deserves a re-read whilst listening to the CD on repeat.
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  • Angela
    June 26, 2017
    This is about a fictional musician as she muses over her back caalogue and the songs that have shaped her life.It took me quite a while to actually enjoy this book. Initially, I was not invested in the characters at all, nor was I really enjoying the lyrics to the songs that opened up each chapter. However, as the book progressed so did my feelings. I started to really enjoy the concept and was really drawn to some of the more minor characters (like Johnny, and Lily, and Irene). Each chapter is This is about a fictional musician as she muses over her back caalogue and the songs that have shaped her life.It took me quite a while to actually enjoy this book. Initially, I was not invested in the characters at all, nor was I really enjoying the lyrics to the songs that opened up each chapter. However, as the book progressed so did my feelings. I started to really enjoy the concept and was really drawn to some of the more minor characters (like Johnny, and Lily, and Irene). Each chapter is opened with the lyrics of one of the songs that Cass, our protagnist, has chosen. This is where the book falls slightly flat for me as the lyrics that Barnett has written are not as good as her actual prose. I suppose if this wasn't fiction and about a musician I loved and whose lyrics I knew, I could see this concept working a lot better. I found the writing style itself rather clunky and it took me a long time to get into a reading flow. There are a lot of flashbacks and with the copy I have, it really wasn't obvious initially when these flashbacks had started or ended. Again, this discord disrupted the reading flow. After finishing the book, I listened to Kathryn Williams album that accompanies it. I listened to this album three times in full, back to back. The music is beautiful and quite frankly, Williams has brought this book and lyrics alive for me. A disjointed read, but would recommend this and the accompanying album. An advanced reader copy was kindly provided by the publisher via Netgalley.
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  • Maria
    February 1, 2017
    This is not just a story, it's the life of Cass Wheeler and while you are reading her memories you will start listening and feeling her emotions inside you. I just can dream listening to Cass life songs, it has to be an amazing experience, two of my favourite pleasures together, music and books!This is quite an original book, we start reading Cass' present and song by song we discover her past; childhood, love life and motherhood. Cass' life hasn't been easy, but she learns to live with her prob This is not just a story, it's the life of Cass Wheeler and while you are reading her memories you will start listening and feeling her emotions inside you. I just can dream listening to Cass life songs, it has to be an amazing experience, two of my favourite pleasures together, music and books!This is quite an original book, we start reading Cass' present and song by song we discover her past; childhood, love life and motherhood. Cass' life hasn't been easy, but she learns to live with her problems, ambitions and happiness.I don't want to make any spoilers, Greatest Hits is one of the 2017 books you must read, a bittersweet story where music can transmit feelings and emotions that sometimes we don't have words to explain.I liked the first book of Laura Barnett, The Versions of Us, but this one is my favourite, Cass showed me that when you have a dream you have to pursue till it comes true, it's not easy, but if you work, there's nothing that can stop you.I am not a compositor, but I love music, that's maybe why I loved so much this book, every one of my favourite songs has a memory coat on them... - The Universal by Blur, my first cassette, the happiness of buying the song you like and listening it for the first time.- New Born by Muse, walking to the Sitges Festival as a volunteer, an amazing experience!- Dreams by Imagine Dragons the song of my pregnancy, the happiness, scary and all the mixed feelings that I had!And I can go on and on with all my favourite songs! :) Do you have your life soundtrack?
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  • Susan
    May 11, 2017
    Laura Barnett's The Versions of Us still sits on my TBR pile but I was interested in the idea of her second novel, especially when it was announced that Kathryn Williams would be providing an accompanying soundtrack. Greatest Hits is the story of Cass Wheeler, a retired folk-pop singer-songwriter from the 1970s who takes a day to listen to her back catalogue and choose 16 songs to represent her life and work. As she does so, the story of her life emerges and we find out more about why each was w Laura Barnett's The Versions of Us still sits on my TBR pile but I was interested in the idea of her second novel, especially when it was announced that Kathryn Williams would be providing an accompanying soundtrack. Greatest Hits is the story of Cass Wheeler, a retired folk-pop singer-songwriter from the 1970s who takes a day to listen to her back catalogue and choose 16 songs to represent her life and work. As she does so, the story of her life emerges and we find out more about why each was written and what Cass has gone through to get to where she is, isolated and alone, but about to emerge with an album of new material. Each chapter starts with a song and charts a part of Cass's life, from her entrance into the world as the daughter of a vicar who christens her Maria because he feels she should, leaving Cassandra as her middle name. Cass's mother has depression and leaves her husband and daughter to run away to Canada when Cass is a young girl. This act changes Cass's life - emotionally in ways she takes years to recover from, and physically as she moves from her devastated father to live with her aunt and uncle. It is there that she takes her first real steps to a musical career. Told purely from Cass's point of view, the book is nevertheless a clear-eyed account of the mistakes we make as we get through life, and is unskimping on the details - the drug taking, drinking, domestic abuse. This is a novel about consequences, how we live with them, and about the elusive second chance.
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  • Deepa
    May 31, 2017
    Greatest Hits is the fictional biography of singer/songwriter Cass Wheeler, Britains answer to Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez. The novel interweaves her life story with her original songs, starting with her birth and difficult childhood, leading to a heart-breaking event which leads to her becoming a recluse in her mid-60s. I loved reading this book. It affected me so deeply that during Casss lowest moments, I was crying with her for 30 long minutes. I read the book, whilst sitting in my own orches Greatest Hits is the fictional biography of singer/songwriter Cass Wheeler, Britain´s answer to Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez. The novel interweaves her life story with her original songs, starting with her birth and difficult childhood, leading to a heart-breaking event which leads to her becoming a recluse in her mid-60s. I loved reading this book. It affected me so deeply that during Cass´s lowest moments, I was crying with her for 30 long minutes. I read the book, whilst sitting in my own orchestra rehearsals (when I wasn´t playing) and somehow the combination of listening to music whilst reading about Cass, was an incredibly beautiful feeling. I´m overjoyed at finding a new author and look forward to reading `The Versions of Us` and any future writings of Laura Barnett. I am also keen to read 'The Greatest Hits' again with the music of Kathryn Williams playing at the same time. I was so surprised to hear that Barnett managed to collaborate with Williams to produce a soundtrack to the book. I haven´t had this experience since 'An Equal Music' by Vikram Seth, so I am incredibly excited hear the new album. Thankyou so much NetGally for the opportunity to read this book. I probably wouldn´t have bought the book and with this chance, I have found a new author whose work I truly love.
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  • Fabulous Book Fiend
    June 2, 2017
    This book was long but enjoyable. It took me a while to get through but that it simply because there is so much detail to it. We are taken back through time as Cass relives moments from her past as far back as when she was a young child. This book is interspersed with songs that Cass has written in her career as a singer and we see her in present day and then we revisit a memory from her past. I read a paperback proof of this novel and found it very easy to keep track of what time of her life we This book was long but enjoyable. It took me a while to get through but that it simply because there is so much detail to it. We are taken back through time as Cass relives moments from her past as far back as when she was a young child. This book is interspersed with songs that Cass has written in her career as a singer and we see her in present day and then we revisit a memory from her past. I read a paperback proof of this novel and found it very easy to keep track of what time of her life we are in, whether it is present day or a flashback. I think my favourite moments were moments from her childhood because we get to see what has made her what she is today. I really liked the structure of this novel, although I think it would work best read in physical form so that it is easy to see what era you are in and also easier to flick back and revisit something that links with what you are reading now. I didn't necessarily warm to Cass as a character in her present day persona, I think this may be why I enjoyed the childhood sections of the book more. This is possibly because she is a star and so naturally quite introverted and selfish. This didn't mean that I didn't find her fascinating though. I really enjoyed getting to know her as a character and seeing her interact with others over the years. She didn't really grow on me as the book went on but I didn't strongly dislike her either. I just found her difficult to warm to. There are other characters in this novel too but none of them have as high a profile as Cass. I found some of the friends/managers/band members slightly difficult to keep track off, I think this was possibly because they really didn't have as much character development as the main character in this instance because this is very much a book about Cass and about her life. I enjoyed the insight into the music industry that this gave me and loved the fact that the chapters are interwoven with her music. As I say this was a long read so make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to get through this and I would recommend picking this up in hardback because you will want to revisit parts from Cass's past as you get to know her future. I enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend this if you are looking for something to get your teeth into.
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  • Heather
    May 7, 2017
    I was looking forward to this book. I loved The Versions of Us, and this new one really appealed.Cass Wheeler, a famous singer, who is making a comeback, is looking back over her life, over the course of one day, while getting ready for a party to celebrate her Greatest Hits album.Cass is about my age, and her music is my kind of music.Her story is told in episodes, interspersed with song lyrics, and at first I was drawn into the story.Maria Cassandra Wheeler is the daughter of a London vicar, a I was looking forward to this book. I loved The Versions of Us, and this new one really appealed.Cass Wheeler, a famous singer, who is making a comeback, is looking back over her life, over the course of one day, while getting ready for a party to celebrate her Greatest Hits album.Cass is about my age, and her music is my kind of music.Her story is told in episodes, interspersed with song lyrics, and at first I was drawn into the story.Maria Cassandra Wheeler is the daughter of a London vicar, and his much younger wife, and I enjoyed the early part of the book, but once she left the family home to live with her Aunt, I found her increasingly annoying.She has no connection with the people around her, including family, and seems to be able to drop them and take them up again at will, with no concept of the damage she is causing. By the end of the book, I really didn’t care what happened to her, I was far more interested by some of the minor characters, and would liked to have known more of them.Very disappointing.Thanks to Netgalley and Orion Books for the opportunity to read this book.
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  • Karen Carter
    June 9, 2017
    I loved the idea of this book portraying the soundtrack to someone's life and thought it was fantastic when I found that there is indeed a soundtrack courtesy of Kathryn Williams. The music is the thread that is used to link Cass Wheelers life story and as we meet each song we learn about the events of that time. I did not always find these jumps in time to flow seamlessly and occasionally backtracked to make sure I was clear on what/where we were. All of Cass' relationships are explored, both p I loved the idea of this book portraying the soundtrack to someone's life and thought it was fantastic when I found that there is indeed a soundtrack courtesy of Kathryn Williams. The music is the thread that is used to link Cass Wheelers life story and as we meet each song we learn about the events of that time. I did not always find these jumps in time to flow seamlessly and occasionally backtracked to make sure I was clear on what/where we were. All of Cass' relationships are explored, both personal and professional, and she does not always come out well.The story belonged to Cass although I warmed to other supporting characters more (such as Johnny, Francis,Irene and Lily) and I really wanted to explore them a little more. Interaction with these characters also made Cass more sympathetic as a character than I often felt she was.This was an intriguing book but one that I liked rather than loved.
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  • Tara
    May 31, 2017
    4.5 stars. Have you ever read a book featuring a fictional musician and thought ‘I wish I could hear their work in real life?’Cass Wheeler, the lead character in Laura Barnett’s new book, Greatest Hits, had such an interesting, attractive and authentic voice on the page. I felt sure she had to be real and was so disappointed when I discovered that wasn’t the case. Then I read about an innovative project between the author and singer songwriter Kathryn Williams, which will bring the songs from th 4.5 stars. Have you ever read a book featuring a fictional musician and thought ‘I wish I could hear their work in real life?’Cass Wheeler, the lead character in Laura Barnett’s new book, Greatest Hits, had such an interesting, attractive and authentic voice on the page. I felt sure she had to be real and was so disappointed when I discovered that wasn’t the case. Then I read about an innovative project between the author and singer songwriter Kathryn Williams, which will bring the songs from the book to life.An album of 16 tracks, entitled Songs From The Novel Greatest Hits, with music by Mercury-nominated Kathryn and lyrics by them both, is being released alongside the book.How cool is that? I’ve listened to the first song, Common Ground, from the collaboration and it’s perfect. There’s no other way to describe it.This is Laura’s follow-up to the hugely successful The Versions Of Us and I think she has another hit on her hands.It was one of those books where I was frustrated and, at times, a little bit cross to have to put it down and do real life things.It’s complex and intense but still flows beautifully. Although it covers several decades, it doesn’t feel like there are massive jumps. The book is well-researched and steeped in nostalgia (for some reason it made me think about my first clunky old Walkman, which I adored, for the first time in years). It’s an altogether unique experience – and that’s before you even get to the music.As I got further engrossed, I longed to hear Cass sing, which is why I went looking to see if she was a real artist. Instead I discovered the fantastic project between Laura and Kathryn, which surely has to be the next best thing.When announcing the album, Laura, who is also a freelance journalist, feature writer and theatre critic, said: “From the earliest moment of coming up with the idea for Greatest Hits, it was clear to me that I wanted my character’s musical output to have a life beyond the page. I’ve been a fan of Kathryn’s music for years and I’m so thrilled to be working with her – she’s an absolute magician, and I’m so excited about the creative possibilities posed by drawing literature and music together in this way.”I’m intrigued to see how the album, which is realeased under the One Little Indian label, does, but one thing is for sure – it’s safe to say Laura, like Cass, is no one hit wonder.
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  • Christina
    June 13, 2017
    Wow! What can I say about this book? It is my best read so far this year. It took me a chapter to get into the book, but from then on I couldn't put it down. The book is the story of Cass Wheeler's life, a singer songwriter with a life full of ups and downs. The story is told as flashbacks when the old Cass is creating a soundtrack of her life from her old songs. I was so caught up in the story that I caught my self thinking I should check out Cass's songs and see if she still played at Union Ch Wow! What can I say about this book? It is my best read so far this year. It took me a chapter to get into the book, but from then on I couldn't put it down. The book is the story of Cass Wheeler's life, a singer songwriter with a life full of ups and downs. The story is told as flashbacks when the old Cass is creating a soundtrack of her life from her old songs. I was so caught up in the story that I caught my self thinking I should check out Cass's songs and see if she still played at Union Chapel. Clearly silly thoughts as this is fiction novel, I was so surprised and happy to learn in the end notes that a soundtrack to this book actually had been recorded by Kathryn Williams and it will be released on the same day as the book! I would like to thank the publisher for giving me a pre-publication copy of this book. I will purchase the soundtrack when released.
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  • Helen Eddon
    June 12, 2017
    Cass Wheeler was a hugely successful singer/songwriter in the 70s but after suffering personal tragedy, she decided to retire from the music scene. However, 10 years on, she has decided to record some new material and put together a compilation of her "greatest hits" - those songs that mean the most to her, songs that she sees as the soundtrack to her life. It is as she chooses these hits that we learn about Cass's life - growing up in the 50s and 60s, a difficult childhood and adolescence, her Cass Wheeler was a hugely successful singer/songwriter in the 70s but after suffering personal tragedy, she decided to retire from the music scene. However, 10 years on, she has decided to record some new material and put together a compilation of her "greatest hits" - those songs that mean the most to her, songs that she sees as the soundtrack to her life. It is as she chooses these hits that we learn about Cass's life - growing up in the 50s and 60s, a difficult childhood and adolescence, her tempestuous marriage to fellow musician, Ivor Tait and her regrets about her relationship with her daughter, Anna. For the most part, I enjoyed this book, particularly looking back on her life and career. However, I felt no real connection to Cass or any of the other characters for that matter. An original idea and very readable but it just didn't quite hit the high notes I expected.
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