Alfred Busi, famed and beloved in his town for his music and songs, is now in his sixties, mourning the recent death of his wife and quietly living out his days alone in the large villa he has always called home. The night before he is due to attend a ceremony at the town’s avenue of fame, Busi is attacked by a creature he disturbs as it raids the contents of his larder. Busi is convinced that what assaulted him was no animal, but a child, ‘innocent and wild’, and his words fan the flames of old rumour – of an ancient race of people living in the woods surrounding the town – and new controversy: the town’s paupers, the feral wastrels at its edges, must be dealt with. Once and for all.
As Busi’s nephew’s ambitious plans for himself and the town develop, he is able to fan the flames of rumour and soon Busi and the town he loves will be altered irrevocably.
The Melody by Jim Crace is a story about grief and ageing, about reputation and the loss of it, about love and music and the peculiar way myth seeps into real life.