I’m delighted today to be joining the blog tour for Judy Leigh’s latest book, Lil’s Bus Trip: published by Boldwood Books on 26th August, it’s now available for kindle (free to read via Kindle Unlimited), in paperback, and as an audiobook. As always, my thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy (provided via netgalley).
You’ll know by now that I’m an unashamed fan of Judy’s wonderful books – my love affair started with A Grand Old Time (review here), when I knew I’d found an author who understood exactly what I was looking for in a book. I then adored The Old Girls’ Network (you’ll find that review here), and really wanted to go on and read everything else that Judy had ever written. But then came Heading Over the Hill (review here) – and Chasing the Sun, hilariously funny, but incredibly emotional too, and I thoroughly loved it (you’ll find my review here). But there’s never too long to wait for the next new book – and I was really looking forward to this one.
Let’s take a closer look…
It’s always a good time for a road trip…
When 82-year-old Lil decides to book herself, her 65-year-old daughter, Cassie, and her friend Maggie on a bus trip across Europe, she hopes for a little adventure to counteract the monotony of life in sheltered accommodation.
Along with three members of the Salterley Tennis Club and the Jolly Weaver five-a side football team, whose ideas of a good time are rather different to Lil’s and strikingly at odds with each other’s, the merry band of travelers set out on their great adventure.
From moving moments on the beaches of Normandy, outrageous adventures in Amsterdam, to the beauty of Bruges and gastronomic delights of France, the holiday is just the tonic Lil, Maggie and Cassie needed.
And as the time approaches for them to head home, Lil makes an unexpected discovery – even in her advancing years, men are like buses – there isn’t one for ages then two come along at once. Is Lil ready to share her golden years, and can the ladies embrace the fresh starts that the trip has given them. Or is it just too late to change…
There are so many reasons why I love Judy Leigh’s books – she creates the most wonderful characters (with a particularly special touch with those of more advanced years), wonderfully drawn situations and settings, a bit of travel and adventure (so much needed when we can’t do it for ourselves), always a little romance, and that perfect and elusive balance between plenty of laughs and moments of real poignancy that capture your heart.
The undoubted star of this book is Lil herself – 82 and living in a sheltered housing complex, full of life and mischief, not beyond flirting with the owner of the local cafe, looking for a little excitement, despairing a little at the closed-in life of her friend Maggie who’s entirely at the beck and call of her tv-watching husband. Lil lives alone, but 65 year old daughter Cassie isn’t far away, they have a lovely relationship, and she provides the practical and emotional support she needs – she’s a poet who regularly performs, with her banjo, in the local pubs and farther afield, happily sharing her home with supportive best friend Jamie.
When Lil hears about the minibus tour of Northern Europe being organised by The Jolly Weaver, she signs up all three of them for the trip – and they’re joined by the pub’s owner and his elderly father, some young friends from the pub’s five-a-side football team, and three slightly stuffy members of the local tennis club (in search of culture and gastronomic delights, rather than high jinks – but then again…) as they embark on their adventure. As they explore the delights of France, Belgium and the Netherlands, we get to know them all considerably better – every single one of them superbly drawn, with interesting back stories and developing storylines – as they grow closer and enjoy their time together.
This book really felt like taking a holiday with a group of friends – some of them take a little longer to warm to, some really surprise you – and I enjoyed every single moment, as they explore the sights, bond as a group, and discover things about themselves and others that give real depth to the story. The book is immense fun from beginning to end – some of the set pieces really are laugh-out-loud (particularly as they discover the more dubious delights of Amsterdam) – but with a strong focus on family and friendship, there are many times when it’s also deeply touching. There’s more than a touch of romance too, at both ends of the age spectrum – beautifully done, and a real endorsement that it really is never too late to find happiness where you least expect it.
It really is a quite wonderful ensemble piece – with a mixed bag of individuals where every reader will find someone to identify with and take to their heart, and so many moments to be enjoyed, filled with warmth, as they all embrace their big adventure. I absolutely loved it – very highly recommended to all.
About the author
Judy Leigh is the bestselling author of A Grand Old Time and The Age of Misadventure, and the doyenne of the ‘it’s never too late’ genre of women’s fiction. She has lived all over the UK from Liverpool to Cornwall, but currently resides in Somerset.