Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett @laura_jbarnett @wnbooks @newbooksmag #bookreview #GreatestHits

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?

In this bittersweet and poignant follow-up to the Number One bestselling The Versions of Us, Laura Barnett cements her position as one of the most talented storytellers of her generation.

I really enjoyed Laura Barnett’s first book, The Versions of Us. What is clear from reading this, her second book, is that she likes an unusual approach to telling a story. In Greatest Hits, Cass Wheeler is getting ready for a party and the re-launch of her music career after ten years away. The story is, in effect, told over the course of that one day, but we go right back to 1950 when she was born and follow her over the course of her life as a daughter, singer, wife and mother.

This is a big book, almost 500 pages, but it has to be to fit in all that Cass has lived through. I think the author’s style wouldn’t necessarily appeal to everybody. It’s quite wordy and descriptive but it’s also lyrical, which is kind of apt for a story about a singer-songwriter. There’s quite an intensity to the writing too, an introspective air. As it’s all about Cass it’s almost like a biography (but an interesting one rather than a stuffy, boring one!).

Cass is an interesting character. It doesn’t take much to imagine the kind of singer she would have been. She’s so well-described that I have a real sense in my head of what she looks like, what she would wear, how she would speak and sing. I think the author must have done quite a lot of research into the times as it certainly seems very authentic. The ups and downs of a life as a famous singer, the wife of a volatile man and life on the road are portrayed so well.

I think I actually enjoyed reading about Cass’s private life more than her music career. Her childhood clearly had a massive effect on her life. I found her background as a vicar’s daughter interesting and I loved her Aunt Lily and Uncle John, her saviours at a difficult time in her life.

There’s a nice touch in this novel too. Cass is picking out songs for her Greatest Hits album and each section of the book starts with the lyrics of one of the songs and all the details about when they were written, who played on them etc. And even more charming is that the songs are going to be made into an album recorded by singer-songwriter, Kathryn Williams. Having listened to one of the songs I think it’s exactly how I would have expected Cass to sound.

I think personally I could have done with a little less detail in this book but nonetheless I found it a moving and insightful read from a talented writer.

With thanks to Weidenfeld & Nicolson and New Books Magazine for the review copy. Greatest Hits will be published on 15th June 2017 in ebook and hardback.


To hear Laura and Kathryn talk about their collaboration and hear Kathryn sing one of the songs from the album follow this link.


Laura Barnett was born in 1982 in south London, where she now lives with her husband. She studied Spanish and Italian at Cambridge University, and newspaper journalism at City University, London.
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.
Her second novel, Greatest Hits, is published on 15 June 2017, and features a unique collaboration with singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams on an album to be released alongside the book.
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.

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Author Information and photo taken from the author's Amazon page.

2 Comments

  • This sounds interesting – makes me want to read it just to see what the songs were!

    • You should give it a go then. The songs and music aren’t quite my thing but they fit perfectly with the book and the characters.

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