I’m so delighted today to be helping launch the blog tour for Judy Leigh’s latest book, The Golden Girls’ Getaway, and sharing my publication day review: published by Boldwood Books, it’s now available for kindle (free via Kindle Unlimited), in paperback, and as an audiobook. As ever, 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).
Judy Leigh can do absolutely no wrong as far as I’m concerned – I’ve loved every book of hers that I’ve read, and I’m always eagerly awaiting her next (and she never keeps me waiting too long – in fact, I’ve never had the opportunity to catch up on some of the books I’ve missed!). My first was A Grand Old Time (review here), when I sighed with relief that I’d found an author who was writing the kind of books I so wanted to read. The Old Girls’ Network was equally wonderful (you’ll find that review here), and more books followed thick and fast (one happy reader here!). My next was Heading Over the Hill (review here) – and then Chasing the Sun, so funny, but very emotional too, and I absolutely loved it (you’ll find my review here). And then there was the wonderful Lil’s Bus Trip (you’ll find my review here) – and I’m getting close to running out of superlatives. So when I tell you I was really looking forward to this one, you won’t be too surprised, will you?
It has been a long and lonely year for neighbours Vivienne, Mary and Gwen. All ladies of a ‘certain age’, their lockdown experience has left them feeling isolated and alone. They are in desperate need of a change.
Things start to look up however, when Gwen comes up with a plan to get them out of London by borrowing a motor home. In no time at all the ladies are on the road – away from the city, away from their own four walls, and away from their worries.
The British countryside has never looked more beautiful. As they travel from Stonehenge to Dartmoor, from the Devon and Cornish coasts to the Yorkshire moors, gradually the years fall back, and the three friends start to imagine new futures with no limitations.
And as their journey continues and their friendships deepen, and while the seaside views turn into glorious mountains and moors, Mary, Vivienne and Gwen learn to smile again, to laugh again, and maybe even to love again. Now they can believe that the best is still to come…
As it has for so many of us – perhaps especially for those of us living alone and of a “certain age” – lockdown has been a difficult time for the three ladies who live at the flats at 104 Drayton Mews. Perhaps it hasn’t been quite as bad for Vivienne, who’s a bit of a national treasure in her role as a star in favourite soap The Edge of Edgeware, despite all the challenges of socially distanced filming. It might be Gwen who’s felt it the most – a former opera singer, she’s really struggled to fill her days, trapped within her four walls, finding escape only in her solitary singing. There’s also been the small problem of persistent landlord Vicente, who sees her as the woman of his dreams – she really doesn’t want anyone coming too close, and especially not Vicente. Mary, down in the basement, could do without all that singing – a former nurse, now in her eighties, she’s perfectly content listening to her beloved Dubliners with the occasional foray to the corner shop for the ingredients to make her curries.
But things are about to change. Vivienne’s character is killed off in a fire – and when the only opportunity her agent can find her is as the old woman on a stairlift in a TV advert, she feels her career might be over. But Vicente’s bought a camper van in a further attempt to woo a reluctant Gwen – as restrictions lift, and he falls by the wayside thanks to the virus, she decides they could all really do with a holiday. So the three women, now becoming friends, decide to borrow the van and hit the road – visiting some of the places they’ve always wanted to see, along with revisiting a few with memories of their pasts.
Don’t be put off for an instant by the mentions of lockdowns and the pandemic – it’s lightly done, and really important for context as the women feel that same sense of freedom and liberation that we all felt when the darkest days were over. The friendship between the three women is an absolute joy – and as their road trip continues, they certainly get to know each other rather better through all their adventures and experiences, and have many opportunities to revisit their different lives and memories. And that’s part of the absolute joy of reading a book about older characters – that treasure trove of experience, life’s many small victories and moments of regret – and I loved every moment. But although the past figures large, so does the present and future – their lives certainly aren’t over, there’s fun to be had at every turn, and exciting future opportunities beckon for them all.
The writing is, as always, quite wonderful – filled with the author’s trademark humour, and those moments of poignancy that tear at your heart. With every new experience, I loved these three very different women more and more – and when I reached the end, they felt like friends I really didn’t want to leave behind. And the whole road trip is quite superbly done – the places they visit wonderfully described, the places they stay, the people they meet, their various adventures – and I really felt I’d been on the journey with them (and had an equally lovely time!), armchair travel at its very best.
I’ve loved every one of the author’s books that I’ve had the sheer pleasure of reading – but I think this might be my favourite so far. In fact, it may just be one of my books of the year – I recommend it really highly.
About the author
Judy Leigh is the bestselling author of Five French Hens, 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.