The Year The Music Changed
Hardcover, 244 pages by Diane Thomas. Fictional letters between the up-and-coming Elvis Presley and Achsa J. McEachern, a precocious 14-year-old fan, make up Thomas's fanciful debut novel.
The ElvisNews Review
Set for release in September is the book "The Year The Music Changed" by Diane Thomas.
The old record player on the cover gives away something, but seeing this cover on the shelve of a bookstore would not link us to Elvis in the fifties. Regarding the content of the book, a link to the two characters would have been nice.
The book contains the fictional correspondence between two persons. One an intelligent 14 year girl named Achsa old who is kind of a lonester due to her intelligence and a boy named Elvis who is just about to make it big.
After hearing Elvis' song on a black radio station she decides to write him and from there on they keep writing each other for a long time, keeping their letter-relation secret for the world. Due to the choice of presenting this book as a correspondence, the story feels warm and personal, and it is easy to read. The 14 year old is a nice link to another 14 year old girl Elvis would become to like a few years down the road though. For a period of little over one year the two pen pals share their secret shames and dreams (she wants to become a famous artist and play write, and we all know what Elvis wants to become, a serious actor) and feelings for their parents. Achsa reveals her feelings of social exclusion at school while Presley confesses to sinful temptations on the road. Getting back to the age of Achsa, we doubt if Elvis would tell those stories in writing to an 14 year old girl.
Although written in a warm and personal way (with a bit too much personal problems for a 14 year old in our adult opinion), we could not relate to the book. On one side it is due to the fact that we're Elvis fans and know too much about the man and his life. We could not let that go by.
We must say, the author made no mistakes in the fact of Elvis life during this period sticking close to the information from Ernst Jorgensen's "Day By Day" and the two volumes Peter Guralnick wrote on Elvis.
The real reason we could not relate all that well to the story was that this girl Achsa, is probably too smart for us too. But Elvis getting a writing lesson in each letter from a 14 year old who skipped a few classes is a bit too much in our book. Our man may be a "Hillbilly" for some people, but we think he is smarter that he is presented in this book. Or as Publishers Weekly describes it: "Achsa's letters are long and thoughtful; Presley, in turn, comes off as an aw-shucks, God-fearing kid (with really bad grammar) who wants to sing gospel music and make people happy."
For a fictional book it is written well and easy to read, but for a (male) Elvis fan the story is a bit hard to relate too. We prefer the fictional detectives from Daniel Klein, sticking closer to the Elvis we (think we) know.