Five Books, Five Songs: Hester’s Request

A couple of weeks ago, Genevieve asked me a good question about the FitzOsbornes’ tastes in music, which got me thinking about all the musical references in my books. Here’s the result – five blog posts, each featuring a book I’ve written (or am writing) and a song connected with that book.

Today, I’m going to talk about the most music-filled book I’ve written, The Rage of Sheep, which features dozens of references to 1980s pop music. How can I possibly choose just one song from that book?

Well, at first I thought it would have to be Sheep Go To Heaven by Cake, because two lines from that song appeared as an epigraph in the novel’s initial draft. However, my editors pointed out that quoting lyrics from songs was not a good idea because a) it usually takes ages to track down a song’s copyright holder, which is usually a music publishing company, and b) they usually refuse permission to quote their lyrics unless you agree to pay them thousands of dollars. As I didn’t have the time, energy or money for any of that, I confined my epigraph to a quote from a long-dead writer whose work was out of copyright1. Sheep Go To Heaven is a great song, but it’s not actually in the finished novel.

That’s why I decided on one of the songs that appears in the final chapter of The Rage of Sheep. You know how lots of YA books with a high school setting end with a school dance, and the dorky heroine turns up looking unexpectedly beautiful in a new dress, and the popular guy suddenly realises she’s his One True Love (or else, the heroine suddenly realises her best friend has been her One True Love all along) and all the popular girls realise how mean they’ve been and embrace the heroine, and she forgives them, and the scene ends with them all linking hands and dancing in a big, happy circle? Well, none of that happens at the end of The Rage of Sheep, except it does involve a school dance2. And the DJ does play Hester’s favourite song, which is also (by a remarkable coincidence!) one of my own favourite songs. It’s pretty hard to dance to it, but the lyrics are a wonderful mix of gloom and joy, hope and cynicism, sheer nonsense and deep meaning. It’s by XTC and it’s called Senses Working Overtime.

More in Five Books, Five Songs:

1. The Rage of Sheep – Hester’s Request
2. A Brief History of MontmarayThe Sea Is Writhing Now
3. The FitzOsbornes in ExileDoing The Lambeth Walk
4. The FitzOsbornes at WarWe’ll Meet Again
5. The Work-in-Progress – Through The Large Four-Chambered Heart


  1. It was James Whistler. If you want to know what he said, you’ll have to read The Rage of Sheep.
  2. By the way, the most memorable scene in a YA novel involving a school dance? The climax of Dreamrider, by Barry Jonsberg.

2 thoughts on “Five Books, Five Songs: Hester’s Request”

  1. Hello Michelle,
    I posted a review of your newest Montmaray novel on my blog today at called “For the Love of Lit”, that you might be interested in. (Just got a copy of your book this week). If I were still teaching Language Arts/Social Studies, I’d purchase a classroom set of the entire trilogy, and read your books with my students in a study of WWII. Of course, I know your books are historical fiction, but Sophie is real to me. And you’re the one who made her real. Thanks for that.
    Kathy Love
    P.S. Can you tell us what your next project is about?

    1. Hello, Kathy. Thank you so much for your lovely review and I’m really pleased the FitzOsbornes came alive for you!

      My next project is about science and history, and it’s set in Sydney. (I’m being vague about it because I still haven’t written much of it.) I wrote a bit about it here.

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