A Reading Soundtrack: Part III

I was inspired to do a third soundtrack (check out Part I and Part II) by Rory at Fourth Street Review.  Her literary mixtapes immerse the reader in one book through a whole album’s worth of great music. Check out her latest Literary Mixtape for Bonfire of the Vanities, which is such a great book and one that I will never ruin by watching the movie.

My approach is different. I like to pair one song with one book. As it happens, these are all books I’ve read but have yet to review. Hopefully this will hold you over till I get it together.

The Book: The Monk by Matthew Lewis
The Song: Take Me To Church by Hozier


She sealed his lips with a wanton kiss; ‘Though I forgive your breaking your vows to heaven, I expect you to keep your vows to me. 

This is a perfect pairing because both author and singer are super young guys who need to calm down a bit. Matthew Lewis was nineteen when he wrote The Monk in 1796. It is one of the craziest, Gothic-iest books I’ve every read, and I read a lot of crazy Gothic books. Hozier is a 24 year old Irish singer in heavy rotation on CBC Radio 2 and his song Take Me To Church is super overwrought, in a good way:

If the Heavens ever did speak 
She is the last true mouthpiece 
Every Sunday’s getting more bleak 
A fresh poison each week 
‘We were born sick,’ you heard them say it 
My church offers no absolutes 
She tells me ‘worship in the bedroom’ 
The only heaven I’ll be sent to 
Is when I’m alone with you 
I was born sick, but I love it 
Command me to be well 
Amen. Amen. Amen 

They both strike me as that one guy you dated in high school who was super intense and complicated and listened to a lot of NIN (or whatever decade-appropriate band you want to insert there.) And both apparently have some issues with religion.

The Book: The Shore Girl by Fran Kimmel
The Song: Isobel by Bjork


I can tell you now that I’m all grown up, that I don’t need a mother to keep me safe… I am me. And I have come home.

I haven’t thought about Bjork in years, and I’m just remembering how much I loved her albums Post (1995) and Homogenic (1997.) She had the best videos too. This one is pretty understated, but the song is gorgeous. I recalled that line “married to myself” when I read the end of The Shore Girl. It embodies that lonely yet hopeful tone.

My name Isobel
Married to myself
My love Isobel
Living by herself


The Book: Frog Music by Emma Donoghue
The Song: California Love by 2Pac


Emma Donoghue provides her own extensive soundtrack for Frog Music. In the end notes of the book she talks about the song choices, which reflect the 1890s setting and cover both French and American popular and folk music. You can listen to many of the songs here – I spent a whole afternoon listening to this, it is wonderful.

But if we’re talking modern music, who better to provide a soundtrack for a book about outsiders and outlaws in California, during a time of huge racial tension, than the West Coast rappers of the nineties? California Love in particular could have been written about Jenny, who is literally fresh out of jail when she meets Blanche.

Out on bail fresh outta jail, California dreamin
Soon as I stepped on the scene, I’m hearin hoochies screamin
Fiendin for money and alcohol
The life of a west side playa where cowards die and it’s all ball

And since Jenny gets her own song, I’m throwing in a few b-sides for the other main characters:

Arthur: Big Poppa by The Notorious B.I.G. because money, hoes, and clothes are all this mac knows.
Blanche: Keep Ya Head Up by Tupac because “sista, you don’t need him” sums it up.

I have much more to say about Frog Music, but it will have to wait till I appear on Write Read’s podcast next month!



  1. Naomi

    This is a fun idea, but it just makes me more anxious to read the reviews! 🙂 I don’t think I would be good at pairing songs with books- it would take me way too long to think of the right songs. How do you do it/ what’s your process? Does it take you a long time?

    • lauratfrey

      I almost always think of them while driving, and I keep a running list of blog ideas in Evernote. Once I feel like I have a few good book/song pairs, I do a post. So yeah it takes a few months before I have anything decent!

      I almost did a separate post about Frog Music because I was having fun pairing it with 2Pac and Biggie but figured I better save some enthusiasm for the podcast!

  2. Rory

    Don’t ever watch the movie. Ugh. I love posts like these. I used to do the one/book one song post and I enjoy this style a lot. Plus, I feel seriously gratified every time someone searches “Jane Eyre Literary Soundtrack” – winning.

    Now I have to listen to the Hozier song.

  3. Pingback: A Reading Soundtrack: Part IV | Reading in Bed

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