Diana and her sister Antonia are house-sharing spinsters who have never got over their respective first loves. Diana owns a gift shop, but rarely works there. Antonia is unemployed, having lost her teaching job at an all girls’ school following a shocking outburst in the classroom after enduring years of torment. Diana is a regular at the local library, Antonia enjoys her “nice” magazines, and they treat themselves to coffee and cake once a week in the village café.
Naomi lives alone, haunted by the failure of her two marriages. She works in the library, doesn’t get on with her younger colleagues, and rarely cooks herself a proper meal. Secretly she longs for a Boden frock.
When a body is discovered in the local quarry, all three women’s lives are turned upside down. And when Diana’s old flame Gill turns up unexpectedly, tensions finally spill over and threaten to destroy the outwardly peaceful lives all three women have carefully constructed around themselves.
Helen takes us back to the fictional Shropshire village of Morevale in this, her brilliant second novel which exposes the fragilities and strengths of three remarkably unremarkable elderly women.
First of all let’s get one thing straight. Sixty is not elderly. Sixty is the new forty. Once in your sixties you can wear what you like, dye your hair pink, go to yoga in leg warmers and be comfortably eccentric. And stop caring what people think of you. Unfortunately none of these ladies got the memo.
They need to loosen up a bit and stop dwelling in the past. Their lives are limited by the experiences they had when they were young.
Diana lives in her mother’s house and also owns a gift shop but she doesn’t work there anymore. Her manager runs it. Diana is not needed. She also rents out the flat above so we can see she is not short of a bob or two. But she never goes anywhere. Her life is stuck in a time warp when she was 21 and fell in love with 18 year old Gillian. That was over 40 years ago. They send the odd postcard but have never spoken since. Until now.
Diana’s younger sister Antonia is a bit strange. She was in love with Phillip when they were teenagers but he went away and she never got over it. She really wanted to be married and have children but instead she went into teaching home economics and was so badly bullied by the students that she left under some sort of cloud. She has never recovered from the experience or from being deserted by Phillip. Antonia and Diana live together but only barely tolerate one another’s company.
Naomi is more interesting. She went to university, is well-educated and married a wonderful, cultured man called Nigel. Unfortunately he left her for Melanie but she still holds a candle. Inexplicably she got married again to the dreadful Brian, the total opposite of Nigel. I’d love to say he was a rough diamond, but in reality he was just rough. No proper job, always in the pub and apparently having affairs left, right and centre. One wonders why she married him. Even more so, why he married her. She’s not exactly one of his glam floosies. She thinks maybe he just wanted her money.
But Brian disappeared 20 years ago and then a body turns up. Why can’t the past just stay buried thinks Naomi.
This is a tale of secrets and people who don’t really know each other. A story of three sixty plus women whose lives have been boxed in by their own fears, prejudices and I hate to say narrow-mindedness. They automatically dislike each other but never really try to give the other some credit. They are all lonely but push each other away. Like three residents in a retirement home who never leave their rooms even though there is a communal lounge and dining room.
This is a brilliant book. As a sixty something myself (lucky to be married with two sons, three granddaughters and a dog) I believe you have to make your own choices in life if you can and leave the past in the past. Many people are not so lucky and are desperately lonely, but these three have decided to turn their noses up at the opportunity to form any kind of bond or friendship. I loved it.
Many thanks to @damppebbles for inviting me to be part of #damppebblesblogtours
About the Author
Helen lives in Worcester with her husband, two teenaged children and two rescue cats. Her first poetry collection was nominated for the Forward Best First Collection Prize. She has published three other poetry collections and her short fiction has appeared in magazines including Ambit, Feminist Review and Stand. She holds a BA (Hons) in Humanities.
Helen’s debut novel The Last Words of Madeleine Anderson was published in March 2019. Her second “Morevale” novel, Old Bones, will be published on 16 January 2021.
Louise Walters Books: http://bit.ly/37dpwKM
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2LPuDKI
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/365gdwN
Published by Louise Walters Books.