I do bang on a bit (yes, honestly, I do!) about the relatively small number of books that focus on the lives, realities and concerns of the older reader. And every time I do, someone says “have you read Thursdays in the Park?”. I have no idea why it’s taken me so long, but yes, I finally have – and I really enjoyed it. It’s five years since this lovely book was originally published, and it became a #1 Kindle bestseller (at one point overtaking Fifty Shades of Grey) with over half a million copies sold in ebook as well as over 60,000 paperbacks.
Quercus Books are publishing a special 5th anniversary paperback edition on Thursday (6th October, £7.99), complete with a lovely new cover, reading group questions and the first chapter of Hilary’s new book, The Lavender House. And, if you hadn’t heard, Thursdays in the Park has been optioned by screenwriter, director and actor Charles Dance with shooting scheduled to begin early next year. I’m really delighted to be publishing my review as part of the blog tour.
Jeanie has been married for thirty years, but her husband George has become so cold and distant she may as well be alone. Surely, at just sixty, a loveless marriage can’t be the only thing left on the horizon? Then, one Thursday in autumn, Jeanie meets Ray in the park, and a chance meeting blossoms into a friendship.
They talk, laugh, share hopes and secrets and heartbreaks. They offer each other a second chance at life and love. But will they have the courage to take it?
Let’s face it, we’ve all been there, haven’t we? (Or is it just me?!) Putting up with the not quite good enough, but lacking the impetus to do anything about it. That’s where Jeanie finds herself at the start of the story – in a marriage with a man who certainly has his own issues, undoubtedly loves her in his own way (and it’s a love that’s largely reciprocated) but who totally disregards her opinions and wishes on everything, even something as momentous as a total life change by moving to the country. Her daughter also thinks she can control her, and her obnoxious son-in-law is just a user. Her daily escape is the health food store she owns and runs, and her only other joy the time she spends with granddaughter Ellie on a Thursday afternoon and her tennis sessions with her supportive best friend. When she meets Ray and his grandson Dylan in the park, it might just give her the courage she needs to do something about her life. Instead of existing only as a grandmother, mother and wife, maybe she has an opportunity to become her own person again.
I know that not all reviewers have agreed – perhaps it depends on your personal perspective – but I thought the story was beautiful, and so well told. There’s a gentle humour throughout, and although the basic story is quite a simple one – with just a few added complications at times – the acute observation of people’s behaviour made it quite enchanting. The “love in later life” was well handled – Ray is gorgeous – and the whole book (which I read almost in a single sitting) filled with warmth and simply lovely in every way. The only little thing that jarred slightly at first was granddaughter Ellie’s “baby-speak’ – but the longer I lived with the characters, it seemed right, and I stopped noticing it. I’d thoroughly recommend this book to anyone of a similar age – in fact, I’d recommend it to younger readers too, as a reminder that being over 50 doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a chance at love and living again. I look forward to reading more from Hilary Boyd – and I still have absolutely no idea why it took me five years to discover her lovely book.
My thanks to Alainna at Quercus Books for including me in the tour and forwarding the new paperback edition: I read my original kindle copy, which I purchased four years ago and then left languishing, unread.
About the author
Hilary Boyd trained as a nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital, then as a marriage guidance counsellor. After a degree in English Literature at London University in her thirties, she moved into health journalism, writing a Mind, Body, Spirit column for the Daily Express. She published six non-fiction books on health-related subjects before turning to fiction and writing a string of bestsellers, starting with Thursdays in the Park. Hilary is married to film director/producer Don Boyd.