I’m always on the look-out for books with older characters at their heart, books that might particularly appeal to older readers – A Grand Old Time by Judy Leigh, published for kindle by Avon Books on 3rd April (just 99p at the moment, with the paperback to follow on 3rd May) looked like a book I just had to try (thanks to the publishers and netgalley for my advance reading e-copy, and for the hard copy and bottle of wine). “An uplifting, feelgood comedy that proves it’s never too late to have the time of your life” is a strapline to excite anyone beyond their middle years – and I’m delighted to report that the book was absolutely everything I hoped it would be.
Evie Gallagher is regretting her hasty move into a care home. She may be seventy-five and recently widowed, but she’s absolutely not dead yet. And so, one morning, Evie walks out of Sheldon Lodge and sets off on a Great Adventure across Europe.
But not everyone thinks Great Adventures are appropriate for women of Evie’s age, least of all her son Brendan and his wife Maura, who follow a trail of puzzling text messages to bring her home.
When they finally catch up with her, there are shocks in store . . . because while Brendan may have given up on life and love, Evie certainly has not.
Now I will admit that I started this book not quite sure if it would be “me”. I’m 62, not 75 and the world of nursing homes is my mother’s territory, not mine. But Evie was such a great character that she won me over in the first few pages, an Irish mammy with wit and charm, and a total disregard for convention – the initial visit from son Brendan and his dragon-lady wife Maura was just fantastically written, and when Evie gathered together her essentials and decided to run, I found myself enthusiastically cheering her on.
Her journey from that point on is absolutely wonderful, the people who cross her path all individually and perfectly drawn – many of them are on their own journeys too, trying to find their way, and Evie has her part to play in each of their stories. Journeys are a bit of a theme really. Brendan and Maura, following in hot pursuit, have rather lost their way – Brendan over-obsessed with a fellow teacher and unhappy with his lot, Maura cold and brittle, their marriage falling apart through neglect.
I can’t tell you how the story turns out – it needs to be the reader’s journey too – but by its end I’d laughed, cringed, felt really concerned, giggled, cried (rather a lot) and emerged into the rosier future with a heart broken, mended, and singing with joy. The themes of never too late, second chances, finding joy in the little things and the complexities of marriage and family were so beautifully done, and this lovely book was everything I wanted it to be, and more. I have my role model for when I reach 75 and put on my own red beret – Evie, I loved you, and hope you have a long and happy future.
About the author
Judy Leigh has lived all over the UK from Liverpool to Cornwall, but currently resides in a tumbledown farmhouse in Somerset. After teaching theatre, writing lyrics and setting up Shakespeare Festivals, she completed an MA in Professional Writing and wrote her debut novel, A Grand Old Time. Her second novel is on its way.
She is a prolific writer, but when she is not at her computer you will find her on the beach, walking, doing yoga or splashing in the sea. She is also a Reiki healer, a vegan and an animal lover. She has three black cats, enjoys live music, theatre and football.