A Grand Old Time – Judy Leigh

Evie has moved into a care home. She is only 75 and cannot see why she is in there when she looks round at all the other residents. So she decides to leave and carrying on living her life.

Trouble is she doesn’t tell anyone. A trip from Ireland to Liverpool and a lot of luck on the way finds Evie with money to burn and making her way across France.

Brendan is Evie’s only son. His marriage is in crisis, his career is stagnant and he appears to have lost the zest for life and the love of everything.

When he discovers his mother’s disappearance he sets out to bring her home. Just as he thinks he is getting closer, it seems he is actually further away.

We follow Evie as she makes her way across France, discovering new friends young and old as well as new tastes in food, music, culture, wine and a simpler way of living. She has nothing to lose and tells it how it is, whilst her abruptness might be despised by many, it brings her a new lease of life. I enjoyed this part of the book, I felt I was reading almost a travelogue and a self-help book all rolled into one.

Then you get to Brendan’s story and I wanted to cry,because I could see the deep depression he was in and I felt it. I felt he was trapped and could not find any joy in life anymore. Despite being a beautiful part of the world looking for his mother. Maura, his wife was rather irritating at the beginning but as the story progresses as they go to France to find Evie, I changed my mind about her, ironically just as Evie does.

This is a beautifully subtle novel which deals with many emotions: fear at getting old, at losing someone or something. A deep-rooted sadness which looks like it will consume once it has got hold. Balancing it out with joy, love, trust and admiration for others who can help you find your own self and your own way.

I thought this was a seasoned author with many novels to her name. No this is her debut. Her characters are strong and weak, they have their faults and the author has not been afraid of exposing the harsher side of ageing but she also shows that life goes on and in fact you can start or restart living it at any age.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the opportunity to read this novel. 

A Grand Old Time is out now.


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