It’s such a pleasure today to share my review of 59 Memory Lane by Celia Anderson: already available as an ebook and audiobook, the paperback is published tomorrow by HarperCollins. My thanks to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy, provided via netgalley.
May Rosevere has reached the grand old age of one-hundred-and-ten, thanks to several slices of toast with butter every morning, a glass (or two) of port, and the wonders of the Cornish sea air – or so she tells everyone.
But there’s much more to May than her remarkable age. She has a secret. One that no one has ever discovered …
I’ve been so looking forward to reading this book, and was so very frustrated that I just couldn’t get to it any sooner – I rather thought it might be a book I’d enjoy when I saw some of the many endorsements…
‘I haven’t felt so happy sad at the door closing on characters I’ve come to love in a long time’ Jules Wake
‘An absolute gem of a book’ Sue Fortin, USA Today bestseller
‘A rich, warm and enchanting read, stuffed full of wonderful characters that I felt, by the end, I knew like my own neighbours’ Anna Stuart
‘So warm and engaging, with witty and relatable characters I was rooting for every step of the way’ Leah Mercer
‘Scrumptious!’ Julie Vince
‘I defy anyone not to fall in love with this delightful cast of characters, or to be drawn into their compelling, if complicated, lives’ Jenni Keer
Every so often, a book totally confounds your expectations: this always looked like a book I’d really enjoy with its promises of being “charming”, “heartwarming” and “feel good”, perhaps a little light froth to escape from life, and that might just have been enough. But it proved to be a book I fell in love with, quite head over heels – and not only because of its wonderful depiction of the older characters I love to read about but so rarely find at the centre of the books I read. There’s a strong theme of being sustained by memories, very original and so cleverly done that it became quite real as May relishes every opportunity to thrive until her 111th birthday, while becoming increasingly aware of the consequences.
But there’s so much more than that – there’s a superbly drawn cast of characters, a gentle examination of grief, loss and loneliness, the legacy of the past, the intricacies of family relationships, the richness and surprises of life where age isn’t a barrier, and a Cornish village setting so vivid you can taste the salt and smell the flowers. The supportive friendships are just wonderful – Andy’s care for his elderly neighbours while still struggling with his personal loss and trying to be a good father to young Tamsin, the fractured relationship between May and Julia slowly rebuilt, the whole concept of Adopt-a-Granny with its well-meaning organiser and the initial resistance of everyone involved.
Emily returns to the village – and she’s a character I immediately warmed to, as she looks for her grandfather’s welcoming wave – with concerns about her grandmother Julia. Their relationship is beautifully handled: Julia’s attempts to ensure that she stays are deeply touching, and I loved the way she became a catalyst for some of the story’s twists and turns, her easy relationship with May, and particularly enjoyed Andy’s initially awkward attempts to get rather closer. Both the developing romances are simply lovely, believable, and warm the cockles of your heart – and then there are the characters’ sometimes convoluted back stories, slowly revealed, with several touches of mystery, more of those memories both good and best banished, and the intriguing trail of things lost.
The writing is just wonderful – this isn’t a book you just read, it’s a story where you can happily live within its pages: when the story ends its characters are every bit as real to you as your own loved ones, and I felt a real sense of loss as I said goodbye. If this book should ever have the good fortune to be made into a film, I do have the entire cast list already worked out – and I’m sure everyone who reads it will have already spotted the perfect role for the essential Bill Nighy. Highly, highly recommended – and I’m already hoping for that possible sequel as there’s little I’d enjoy more than spending more time in Pengelly with these wonderful characters who totally captured my heart.
About the author
Celia Anderson lives slap bang in the middle of the Midlands and dreams of owning a cottage by the sea, or at the very least on a canal or river. She makes do with living next door to a pond full of ducks but often manages to sneak more impressive watery places into her writing. Celia loves walking, reading, having large bubbly baths, eating and drinking wine. Over the years, she has found that all of these activities bar the first may be done simultaneously, although this can be messy. Previously a teacher and assistant head, she now writes full time and keeps her feet on the ground by running children’s clubs that mainly involve drama and cake.
An enthusiastic member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Celia currently organises the judging for the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards. She spends far too much time on social media and dreams of one day being strong-minded enough to leave the house without her phone.