Utopia Avenue

Author(s): David Mitchell

Novel | Read our reviews!

The spectacular new novel from the bestselling author of CLOUD ATLAS and THE BONE CLOCKS, 'one of the most brilliantly inventive writers of this, or any country' (Independent).

Utopia Avenue are the strangest British band you've never heard of. Emerging from London's psychedelic scene in 1967 and fronted by folksinger Elf Holloway, guitar demigod Jasper de Zoet and blues bassist Dean Moss, Utopia Avenue released only two LPs during its brief and blazing journey from the clubs of Soho and draughty ballrooms to Top of the Pops and the cusp of chart success, to glory in Amsterdam, prison in Rome and a fateful American fortnight in the autumn of 1968. David Mitchell's new novel tells the unexpurgated story of Utopia Avenue; of riots in the streets and revolutions in the head; of drugs, thugs, madness, love, sex, death, art; of the families we choose and the ones we don't; of fame's Faustian pact and stardom's wobbly ladder. Can we change the world in turbulent times, or does the world change us? Utopia means 'nowhere' but could a shinier world be within grasp - if only we had a map?

Utopia Avenue is the band you've never heard of but could have been plausibly real. Enter David Mitchell’s latest novel, a book about a band in late 60s London, thrown together by happenstance, shaped by music promoters and ‘making it’ on a heady whirlwind journey from obscurity to fame. Under any other pen, this could have been predictable rags-to-riches-in-the-music-industry rant, but Mitchell, as readers of his work will know, is adept at getting inside the time and the emotional lives of his characters. The setting is pitched perfectly, with the band members coming from different social and class aspects of 1960s Britain and embracing the social and political changes of their time. Elf Holloway is a folk singer who already has a bit of a following — a nice girl from a middle-class background. Dean Moss is a blues bassist, East End working class, and from the world of hard knocks. Jasper de Zoet, guitar virtuoso, is of aristocratic stock (if you are a reader of Mitchell’s work you will recognise the name — the lead player in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is Jasper’s ancestor); and Griff Griffin, jazz drummer, is a Yorkshire lad. The novel is scattered with references to actual musicians and bands — some of whom the band members meet at parties or in the green rooms of the television studios, and mentions of historic events — protests, scandals and politics, alongside imagined encounters with artists, writers and musicians, making the scene all very believable. The novel follows each of the band members via the development of the albums and their contributions, with chapters cleverly titled by their songs. But it is not the music that carries this novel, in spite of Mitchell’s obvious passion for the form, but the stories of each of our four musicians: their upbringings, passions, weaknesses and genius. Elf Holloway, seemingly dominated by her boyfriend who has convinced her that he’s the winning ticket in their duo, finds her voice and her feet, as well as solidarity with the band, which surprises her and them. Dean Moss, used to bad luck, still makes mistakes (fame is a cosy and dangerous bedfellow), but his ability to write a song enables him to face his traumatic childhood and overcome his fear of his father. He’s also the unlikely glue in this quartet. Jasper's psychedelic imagination both drives him to madness and genius — those lines blurred in his transfixing playing. His story is endlessly interesting and Mitchell’s insight into an altered consciousness is pitch-perfect. Griff is the ballast holding the beat steady as only a drummer does, yet he’s also the guy who can get them in and out of a scrap, and the one to overcome an obstacle which puts the band in jeopardy. Needless to say, there are plenty of spills, splits and fireworks in the relationship between the four, and in the band's interactions with the music industry and those who wish to control them. Fame doesn’t come easily and the price can be high. Utopia Avenue is addictive and enjoyable, complete with lyrics. Maybe someone will make the album...



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Product Information

General Fields

  • : 9781444799439
  • : Hodder & Stoughton
  • : Sceptre
  • : 0.3
  • : March 2020
  • : 4.5 Centimeters X 15.5 Centimeters X 23.5 Centimeters
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : David Mitchell
  • : Paperback
  • : Jul-20
  • : 823.92
  • : 608