The title of Songbird refers to the main character, a woman with a dark and mysterious past. The novel begins in 1996 (which is, for all purposes, the present). This woman is a mystery to all living in her apartment building. Laughed at behind her back because she is the stereotypical crazy old lady, she's middle-aged but seems much older, with her graying hair and disheveled look. She stays locked up in her room, coming out only for essentials. No one knows who she is. She is alone in the world.
The story moves back to the late 1970s. Maddy is known as “the songbird.” She's got a beautiful voice and makes her living working for her boyfriend, a man who hired her to sing in his nightclub. He also has a reputation for being cruel. Maddy doesn't see it right away, but the longer she’s with him, the more she becomes the target for his anger when things don’t go his way. He also has a very jealous nature, even though she never gives him a reason to feel jealous.
Alice is Maddy's best friend and has worked for Drayton, the owner of the club, for many years. It's a good job and she stays loyal to him even though she sees his bad temper. She and Maddy grow to be inseparable.
Things go sour between Drayton and Maddy. After a number of beatings, Maddy is fired and replaced by someone younger and prettier. This leads to an attack upon both Maddy and Alice, who have to fight for their lives. After a rough night and being beaten nearly to death, Maddy later learns that Alice has died from her injuries. Maddy blames herself for what has happened and mourns the loss of her good friend.
Her life is a big mess. She's pregnant by the man she hates; for so long she hoped Drayton would learn to love his unborn baby, but now she has lost all confidence in a future with him. However, Ellen, the singer who replaced Alice in the club, befriends Alice and is the one that saves her life. The two of them try to find a new life together. Knowing that Drayton will try to find them and kill them both, they go into hiding, seeking help from Ellen’s grandfather. This is only the beginning. Will Maddy ever be free of the fear that Drayton is going to hunt her and the baby down?
I've read a few books by Josephine Cox, and the one thing I can say is, she's a good storyteller. However, I had some problems with Songbird, a story that supposedly takes place in two timelines – the 1970s and the late 1990s. The story actually feels like it takes place in an earlier era - the way the characters speak and behave, and especially the song references throughout, give Songbird a 1950’s or 1960’s feel. The biggest gaffes are the music references, especially one in which Maddy is singing the song “Yesterday”, the famous Paul McCartney tune recorded by the Beatles, noting that this was the most popular song at the time. However, it’s the mid-1970s when the character sings the song, over 10 years after the single was released. Major errors like this throughout are annoying and hard to miss.
“Soap opera” is probably a good description for the story; if you can get hooked on the story, the book reads fast. Unfortunately, with the goofs that Cox makes with the songs and other minor details that I picked up on as I read, I can only give this book a 3 star rating. The storyline, however, is very exciting and kept me interested throughout. Josephine Cox always writes novels that end up with some crazy twist that makes it worth the read. This book was definitely not researched properly, unfortunately, so the enjoyment is diminished. It takes a while to get past the musical errors, but the story redeems itself with the climactic ending.
I will definitely read more by Josephine Cox, although I truly hope I don't continue to find such errors. This book is aimed at those who love to read books that help them escape, but for those who want their stories with a lot more accuracy, skip it.