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This is an audiobook narrated by Patience Tomlinson.

Siblings Robert (62) and Phoebe (60) are concerned about their 85 year old father James. After a fall renders the upstairs of his house out of bounds to him, they decide they need to hire a carer for him. After a few carers come and go for various reasons, they hire Mandy – hard-working, down to earth and plain speaking (sometimes too much so). Although Mandy’s outdated and somewhat questionable views are completely at odds with those of their father, Robert and Phoebe are grateful to her for her hard work, and pleased that Mandy and James seem to hit it off, with her presence lending him a new lease of life. But then they start to get jealous of her, and suspicious of her motives. Why is she going through their father’s private papers. And why did a previous client of hers leave her a flat in his Will? Is there more to Mandy than meets the eye?

I have mixed feelings about this book. First the narration – no complaints there; Patience Tomlinson did a great job with all characters. The first part of the book – with alternating chapters told from the points of view of Phoebe and Robert – was enjoyable with some amusing moments, and some believable insights into their situation, watching their once distinguished father grow older and frailer, and seeing him much closer to his carer than he often was with them when they were growing up. There is a twist which I genuinely did not see coming, but which set up the change of direction and narrative for the next part of the book, which is told from the points of view of James and other characters (unnamed here for fear of spoilers). I did not enjoy this part of the book anywhere near as much as the first part, and the conclusion when it came was something of an anti-climax.

I don’t doubt that Deborah Moggach can write believable scenarios and characters, and her prose is very engaging but I did feel a slight dissatisfaction with this book in the end. However, I would certainly try something else by this author.

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Hendrik Groen (the author’s true identity has been kept a closely guarded secret) is, as the title suggests, an 83 year old man who decides to keep a diary of his life in an Amsterdam Nursing Home for a  year. The title seems like an obvious take on The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 1/4, and it’s true that this book feels like a cross sometimes between Adrian Mole and Victor Meldrew of One Foot In The Grave.

Hendrik describes the mundanity of his life, but manages to make it anything but mundane for the reader. He writes about the red tape and bureaucracy which the management have to deal with, and which has effects for the residents (or inmates as he refers to them) of the home, as well as the world of politics, and while he is referring specifically to Dutch politics, much of what he says can be related to other countries as well. Incidentally, if you are not a fan of politics, don’t be put off by the thought of reading about it – Hendrik talks about it in the way that most of us pass comment on the subject with people we know – it’s not vastly in-depth and his sardonic and cynical eye makes it worth reading.

As well as a regular and healthy dollop of humour – there’s something to make you smile or giggle on almost every page – there’s also a great deal of poignancy and sadness as he sees various members of his close circle of friends struck down by ailments such as stroke and diabetes. While he himself enjoys fairly decent health, euthanasia and assisted suicide often crop up in his thoughts, but this does not mean that the book is depressing, just that it provides a bit of insight into what some people might feel. Hendrik never dwells too long on the sadness, and always provides an amusing grumble about one or other of the other residents to make you laugh again.

Overall this is an easy and quick read – undemanding for sure, but one that may well stay with you for some time after you have read it. Highly recommended.

 

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